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5 Trail Running Tips to Help You Love The Night

trail-running-at-night[updated 2/5/15]

Training – Racing – Darkness

At some point in your trail running adventures you may experience a new world, the world of darkness. This may be during some crazy training run or a 100 mile race.

This new light-less, dirt loving experience can be both exhilarating and uncomfortable. With a little awareness, the darkness can become like a best friend in which you look forward to every opportunity to spend time together.

Here are five night-time trail running tips to jump-start that new relationship.

1. Got Light?

Unless you have night-vision skills, you will need to illuminate the path in front of you. Most runners use a headlamp. Some will simply use a handheld light. A few others will use a headlamp / handheld combination. There may be a few other options but I would say the majority of trail runners use the above methods with headlamps dominating.

There are plenty of quality light sources out there. I am a headlamp fan and will sometimes use a powerful handheld flashlight together with the headlamp on more technical terrain.

Petzl, Black Diamond, and Princeton Tec are some of the bigger names in the headlamp arena.

I have used both Petzl and Black Diamond headlamps.

My top headlamp recommendations would be the Black Diamond Spot (130 lumens). Good brightness. Good battery life. Good value for the Lumens. Good weight. Waterproof. The Black Diamond Storm is a little brighter but noticeably heavier (4 AAA batteries vs 3 AAA batteries). It can feel a bit heavy on the head. I would recommend the Spot.

For a handheld, I am a fan of the Fenix products. If the terrain is technical and you want some definition to the rocks, roots, or objects, that can often be flattened with a headlamp, the handheld can help add definition to the terrain due to being held at a lower position.

I currently own a Fenix PD30. It’s current model is the PD32. Looks like a freight train coming down the trail. Waterproof. Small, compact size. Solid construction. Love it…but it does require two 123A Lithium batteries which isn’t as convenient as standard Alkaline batteries you can pick up at the gas station if in a pinch. I usually stock up with a 6 or 12 pack.

If you are running for extended hours during the night, extra batteries placed on you, or in a drop bag (for a race), may be nice or even necessary.

2. Throttle Back

You will likely not be able to safety run as fast during the night hours as you do during the day. Accept it. With reduced vision, varied terrain, and trails/courses that provide opportunities to send you off into no-man’s-land, control the throttle unless you are quite comfortable with your surroundings. A digger or two may also help persuade you.

3. Frozen Butt Protection

As the sun goes down, temps usually drop, your pace slows, the heat generated from the internal engine can likely reduce. Have some layers accessible if you start to get cold. This could be carried on your body or placed in your race drop bags.

I have ran in two races in which I didn’t bring enough clothing options and the combination of darkness, 12 hours into the run, and freezing my butt off equaled NO FUN.

Until one is fairly confident with how their body will perform and respond to various race distances and conditions, have the options available.

4. The Familiar Face

If possible, get to know the trail during the day-light hours so you can create a baseline comfort level and have some idea of what to expect. It never hurts to bring a map as well, especially if you are unfamiliar with the trail. Getting lost – not so fun.

Also, running with another trail running friend, has rarely been a bad idea.

5. Appreciate the Experience

boondoggle-sunset

Stop, turn off your light, look into the sky…the moon…the stars…open space. It can be a very peaceful experience.

As much as I love seeing daytime trail stimulation (trees, flowers, lakes, etc), there is something unique about only being able to see the 10 feet in front of you as you move along the trail.

Trail running at night opens a whole new dimension to experience and I hope these tips can help make it an enjoyable one.

What else has supported your trail running on the flip-side?


If you need a headlamp, you can purchase them and receive an Endurance Buzz tribe discount (10% at checkout) at Running Warehouse.

Simply…

  • Click Running Warehouse
  • Submit the displayed Endurance Buzz discount code. You will see the discount noted in your shopping cart.
  • Then check out the lights!

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David – EnduranceBuzz.com

[Hey EB tribe! This article contains affiliate links which costs you nothing and provides a small commission to us if you would purchase a book through our link.]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

4 Responses to “5 Trail Running Tips to Help You Love The Night”

  1. on 11 May 2010 at 3:53 pm Jennifer Kimble

    I second the frozen butt protection as learned at Rocky!
    Who knew?

  2. on 11 May 2010 at 5:13 pm Greg Luffey

    Running in the dark is quite special. I could swear something was growling at me one night.

    Greg

  3. on 11 May 2010 at 9:54 pm DavidP

    Yep…the night running is fun! I spend a lot of time in the dark already (more ways than one) and will use a red-filtered light when I’m out stargazing.

    The red light preserves the eyes’ dark adaptation….it works quite well to allow me to look at star charts, and then still see things that are very faint through the telescope.

    I think I may try a red filter on my headlamp for the next run in the dark.

  4. on 18 Jul 2010 at 6:57 pm David Hanenburg

    Jennifer, Greg, and DavidP – Thanks for sharing! 🙂