Running after dark

It’s not just a winter thing, running at sunset is the perfect way to end a steamy summer’s day. The temperatures drop, the air stills and you can tune in to the trails in a completely different way. But running after dark has some risk elements attached, and some skills best honed before you grab a headlamp and hit the trail head. With our first Gauteng sunset run coming up on 7 November, now is the time to get in to firefly mode!

Know that it will be different, and takes a bit of planning. Physically, mentally, and in terms of your senses, you enter another world. The challenges that you face during the day are amplified by the absence of ambient light. Your perception of the environment is distorted when you use a headlamp, but the better the headlamp, the less distorted your trail environment will become.

So, choose a good one.

The compact headlamps, with all weight in front, are recommended for short duration activities. Headlamps with batteries at the back of the head are more powerful because they use either a larger rechargeable battery or more regular batteries. They are well balanced and a good choice for an ultra-distance event.

Check the fit and comfort factor. Leading headlamp brands such as Petzl, Black Diamond and Led Lensor are preferred by trail runners for valid reasons. The last thing you want is a lamp that has to be constantly readjusted as you run.

Batteries vs rechargeable? For infrequent, short runs headlamps that require batters are best. But if you plan to run long, or frequently, then go for the rechargeable options. They are generally more expensive, but worth it in the long run (pun pun!).

Lumens? 40 to 50 lumens is… at best… a braai light. For trail you need to look at 250+ lumens. In general, the more powerful your headlamp is, the better. More power means less effort for the eyes in order to see the terrain, allowing you to relax and run faster or go further. Similarly, good running sunnies reduce the fatigue on your eyes whilst running in bright light and, hey, anything to keep from wasting energy expenditure. More lighting power translates to shorter burn time, so consider lamps that have reactive lighting that adapts to the brightness of your environment. So as you run off in to the sunset, your lamp brightens as the light around you dips. Your transition to dark will be seamless and less intimidating.

Running with a headlamp to shine your way may seem intimidating at first, but it is the same as any other kind of running adaptation – the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Remember to remain cognicent of personal safety and run in groups for the max firefly effect!

See you at the beautiful botanical gardens of Walter Sisulu on 7 November. Headlamps are compulsory for this one, and we have a few leading Petzl headlamps available to purchase when you enter online, or on race day.

Words: Kim Stephens
Images: Mark Sampson