Short days, long nights

12. October 2018

The day in autumn that all runners fear is inexorably getting closer. The Central European clock change makes it impossible for the vast majority of runners to do their training by daylight after work. The darkness has its price. 

This once again means: praised be the surfaces that are hard and level. Because how easily have you slipped on slippery ground, and how quickly have you turned your foot or ankle or even fallen over? It is therefore necessary to prevent and reduce the risk by adopting the appropriate behaviour.

Mindfulness and bright lights are the best protection against injuries from falling. If you have or are able to create the opportunity to train during the day, then you should do so. This variant is strongly recommended for precisely those runners who are susceptible to falling or twisting their ankles. 

Light strips and signal lamps: a must

If it is too difficult to organise your day so you can go running in daylight, then only the morning and evening hours remain. Illuminated streets and pavements are well suited to this, but preferably with as few junctions as possible. This is because not only is the vision of the runner impaired, but also that of the car driver or cyclist - and they probably don’t expect to come across a lone jogger at 6:30 in the morning. 

Reflective and preferably highly conspicuous clothing should actually go without saying. Fortunately, almost all manufacturers today equip their running clothes with light strips. Luminous vests, such as those used in road construction, also provide additional safety. Furthermore, signal lamps have proven themselves because, thanks to modern battery technology, they are now very light and can be attached to your clothing (front and rear!) by clips or Velcro. 

Headlamps show the way

If you can’t find any suitable, well-lit running routes as is often the case, particularly in rural regions, then you must take a light with you. In Scandinavia, (where daylight is known to be even more rare than in the Central European winter) they have devised light sources that - similar to a miner’s lamp - are worn on the forehead. The latest products only weigh around 70 grams and therefore do not hinder your running training in any way. However, portable light sources (as well as the tried-and-tested torch) have a significant disadvantage: the eyes adapt to the cone of bright light. This means that the environment appears even darker than it already is. While illuminated objects are easily identified, those outside the light range are very hard to see or cannot be seen at all. 




Accustom your eyes to the dark

There is one, if only limited, advisable way out of this dilemma: running in complete darkness. Even on a dark night, you can actually see at least the outlines of objects. After one or two minutes in the darkness, the eyes have adjusted to the effect that the rods in the retina can convey limited, yet quite acceptable night vision. However, two requirements need to be met: firstly, the road must be completely flat and smooth. And secondly, there should be no other traffic using the road. Just one single, oncoming car is already enough to switch the eyes back to “daylight vision”. 

It goes without saying that during the dark days, you should focus on running carefully and not just do a tempo endurance run. And if the circumstances do not allow you to run outside in the dark? Then stay flexible and relaxed! It is not a sign of weakness to just stay at home when the weather is particularly bad. Or to choose to do alternative training, such as aqua-fit, spinning, or strength training. This is because: your best marathon time was not achieved after a few days of training. So, you won’t lose it by taking a few days off!