You’re only as good as your headlamp! That’s it. That’s the post.
But seriously. I don’t do a lot of nighttime running, simply because my more flexible work schedule means that I can train in the daylight, and I am pretty big on having evenings at home whenever possible. So, when it was time to prep for the Outlaw 100 trail race, I knew I needed to figure out how the night running thing worked. To be honest, I still didn’t do a lot of it. I had friends ask if I’d done overnight runs, or super late/super early runs to prepare, but I really, really prioritize sleep above pretty much all else, so my night running was minimal. But I felt confident heading into the race for a few key reasons. I figured I needed about 40 minutes of headlamp use when the race started, then all night. That meant I just would want to stick with someone until the sun came up, and by the time sun set, I’d have a pacer (Karen) to help me. And I was very confident with my headlamp, which I had trialed running trails at night.
The Fenix 65 or 70R (depending on if you’re shopping in the US or Canada) is perfect. It lasts for a couple hours on a charge (so we did need to swap it out), it illuminates the trails *just right* for running, and it stays on your head while bounding up and down, thanks to the extra strap that goes on top (and you can fit your ponytail through it for some extra hold. And it’s rechargeable, though you can get the batteries for it and just do a battery swap as they die.
Extremely weird tip: If you’re not going to do a lot of night running pre-race, at least do multiple runs while wearing the headlamp, to get used to the weight. This one is pretty heavy (as are most long-lasting ones) and can take some getting used to/dialing in on fit.
I got this awesome tip from this week’s podcast guest Alexey Vermeulen a couple months ago and loved it: Test the runtime of your lights! It’s just like a computer battery, a car battery, or like a phone battery: the manufacturer can say it lasts X long, but they’re not necessarily accurate. When I get a new light, I will just set a timer and run it until it dies so I know the actual run time of that light. It sucks so much to be out with a dead light trying to just follow someone else. This stuff is hard enough during the day!”
I’d take it a step further if you’re racing in cold weather: run your light down outside, rather than in a nice warm room, since some batteries are impacted by the cold.
If you’re new to night running, I will say the more time you can run in the dark, the better. Your pace will slow down, no matter how good you are, though, so don’t stress about the pace on your watch. It’s all about staying relaxed and focused, which can be hard when every tiny noise is spooking you and you’re tired.
I also found that, despite the extra weight, I was much more comfortable running knowing that I had a spare light in my pack—a really lightweight but kind of crappy flashlight that, in a pinch, I could use in the woods. Having that as insurance let me run without stressing about if I would make it back to the start/finish to trade out my good headlamp for another decent one. I think the more calm you can be when you run at night, the better!
Last night-running tip: Just because it’s nighttime and that requires focus, you still have to stay entirely focused on everything else about your run! It’s SO easy to forget to eat and drink because you’re busy trying to see the trail in front of you, but especially if you’re in an ultra-distance situation, I think this is where you get into serious trouble. So, whatever you do, make sure that you’re still eating and drinking and taking care of things like if you need extra gloves/jacket/etc… A couple hours running without eating, drinking, or dealing with chilly hands can really wreck you.
Ok, one more bonus tip: HAVE FUN. It’s super easy to get spooked or freaked out or nervous running in the dark. But try to reframe it as a fun adventure, and that honestly makes a world of difference.
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