While many runners keep going year round, there are others who may be warier of venturing out when the seasons change and autumn takes hold – especially if you started running during the warmer months and have only ever run in summer kit! With this in mind, here are six tips on how to run safely in the colder, darker, wetter months of the autumn.
1. Layers are the key
It rarely gets so cold in the autumn that you need to wear full winter kit. However, the first few miles of an early morning run can feel chilly. You’ve got two options:
- ‘Dress for the second mile’ – Knowing that you will warm up, set off with the end of the run in mind, but accept that you’ll be chilly at first.
- Slip on lightweight gloves or a thin long-sleeved layer that can be stowed away in a pocket or tied around your waist once you warm up.
Every runner will have their own sweetspot where the temperature feels just right, so experiment and find what works for you.
Dark conditions make it tricky to keep an eye out for potential trip hazards or anything else that might cause you problems. There are a few options to deal with this:
- Head torches – which are convenient to carry (if lightweight) and light up whatever you’re looking at.
- Chest torches – which are hands free and mean you can move your head without moving the light.
- Hand torches – which offer the greatest flexibility in what you’re lighting up, but can be awkward to run with while carrying.
Many runners like to run with two torches (eg. head and chest) as it offers more illumination. It also means you’ll have a back up should the batteries go flat in one of your torches.
As well as being able to see where you’re going, it can be beneficial if other people can see you. If you’re running solely on well-lit pavements, then this isn’t so important, but it is well worth making sure drivers can see you if you have to venture onto the roads in the dark. Yes, it’s up to them to drive safely, but that isn’t always the case, and accidents can occur.
In twilight, fluorescent fabrics work well, but they’re no benefit in complete dark. Once the sun has gone, you need reflective fabrics. If you don’t have any, wearing white clothes can work well, too.
4. Personal safety
In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be an issue. Unfortunately, the harsh truth is that occasionally bad things happen to people – either accidentally or through the deliberate actions of others. To minimise risk when running in the dark, please consider sticking to well-lit routes you know, running with a friend, and telling someone your running plans and when you expect to get home.
Technology can help with this. Strava’s Beacon feature, for example, will tell a nominated person if you stop running. Bear in mind, however, that technology isn’t perfect – with the potential for false alarms or complete failure – so probably shouldn’t be relied on.
And should something happen to you, wearing ID can ensure that the emergency services know who you are and whether you have any medical conditions they need to be aware of.
5. Wear trail shoes
Even the smoothest, nicest roads to run on in the summer can become very different once the leaves start falling and the rain comes down. What was once a perfect race track of a route can become a slippery, sloppery trail run when covered in fallen leaves and mud washed from verges. If you find this is the case on your local routes, consider wearing trail shoes for extra grip and to minimise your risk of injury.
6. Check the weather forecast
This one’s simple: Reduce the risk of getting caught in weather you’re unprepared for by checking a forecast before you head out the door.
Embrace the challenge and enjoy yourself
This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, and we’re sure you’ll have plenty of your own tips. But hopefully it’s acted as a prompt to help you think about the ways in which you can run safely through the autumn and winter.
Perhaps most importantly, approaching tricky conditions with the right mindset can be the difference between a fun run and a sufferfest. Embrace the challenge of running in the changeable autumn weather and you stand a much greater chance of enjoying yourself!