I need exercise. (Especially since I like dessert.) But sometimes life dictates when I get to work out.

Last week, I had to do a little night running, which is tough for me since I am a giant chicken. I also had to take my dog. My very hyper dog.

Below, are some tips I’ve learned for running in the dark, plus my advice for running at night with a dog.

  • Run with a buddy or a group. You are more likely to be seen and there is safety in numbers. I figure a 70-pound boxer counts as a buddy. One who jumps four-feet straight in the air every time he sees an inflatable vampire Winnie-the-Pooh, though, doesn’t really give out the “don’t mess with us” vibe I was hoping for.
  • Stick to routes you know well. We hit the cul-de-sacs in the neighborhood, but I soon learned that I had to pay attention to upcoming spooky Halloween décor (we would cross the street or, at least, go way around).
  • Be aware…of everything. Even if you see a car, that does not mean its driver actually sees you. We didn’t come across many cars in the neighborhood, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t watching for them. And there were a few people who were not looking when backing out of their driveways. Keep your eyes moving and your ears open. Watch for cracks in the sidewalk and uneven ground, other animals, people and 7-foot-tall blow-up witches.
  • Wear a headlamp and reflective clothing (or a vest). I would also recommend you get one of those blinking red lights for your back so that anyone approaching from behind can see you, too. They were required during the night-running portion of the Hood to Coast Relay. To me, that means they are a must. Get a reflective collar and leash for your dog or, better yet, a reflective vest. Bonus points if your dog will wear the vest.
  • Run against traffic and wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your eyes from the oncoming lights. Keep your dog on a shorter leash, but not so short that he trips you (a lesson learned on a previous run). A too-long leash, though, and your buddy could run into traffic. No extendible leashes.
  • Bring two poop bags. Nothing is more embarrassing than not having one. Don’t tie the bags to your dog’s leash (another lesson learned from a previous run).
  • Slow down. Don’t do speed work at night because you cannot see the ground as well as you need to. And running fast with an unpredictable dog and its leash is a big tripping risk.
  • Bring ID: Take your phone, some cash for emergencies and identification.
  • Don’t overdress. Yes, the temperature can drop at night, but it may not be as cold as you think. Check the weather before you go out and then dress as if it is about 15 or so degrees warmer. Same rule for your dog. Wear something with pockets for all the stuff you have to bring.
  • Don’t bring music. You definitely don’t need it if you are running with your dog because you will be talking to him the entire time: That’s a football, you just sniffed it like 20 minutes ago; Take it easy; What is your obsession with light poles?; Leave it, leave it, leave it, leave it.

When I run with my dog, whether it is at night or during the day, I always run slower and shorter distances, yet I get just as exhausted as I do after a long training run. But it’s worth it for the bonding time with my buddy … and the dessert, of course!


PS: I’m in no way talented enough to ride a bike in the dark, but I know people do it. Check out these great safety tips from the North Carolina Bicycle Club for cycling at night.