Learn the importance of visibility from Big Peach Running Co. Suwanee’s Austin Bonds.
As a resident of Georgia for the entirety of my life thus far, I’ve repeatedly encountered the “Heat, Hills & Humidity” that the renowned RUNATL shirts showcase across the backside. The 2016 summer has been unforgiving from a temperature standpoint, but the heat and humidity will inevitably yield to the crisp air of autumn in the coming months. The mercury will begin to drop, but so will the amount of daylight that runners have cherished since the middle of March when the clocks were advanced an extra sixty minutes. Before we know it, dusk will descend upon us at 5:30 and become total darkness by 6. Runners will continue into the night, but this is the time to stop and remember that the risk of injury increases as visibility decreases. In short, light the night.
Visibility, like hydration and nutrition, is a broad concept at first glance, but the premise is simple: see and be seen. This is accomplished through an active and passive methodology. For instance, reflective strips across the upper of a shoe or on a piece of apparel are passive in nature. They reflect oncoming light. A headlamp or flashlight are understandably active as light is created at the push of a button. Seeing all that is in front of you is imperative, as is being seen by those around you.
Everyone is a Pedestrian
The mission of Big Peach Running Co. is to grow the Pedestrian Active Lifestyle (PAL), and this focus hasn’t changed since the company was founded in 2004. Whether you run, walk, or hike, you are a pedestrian. I am a pedestrian. Everyone is a pedestrian at one point or another as we will walk somewhere on foot. Pedestrian safety from a visibility standpoint is usually less of an issue during the day as the sun provides glorious illumination. Walking or running at night requires extra vigilance, though.
According to 2011 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4,432 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes. This is a 3% increase from 2010. An estimated 69,000 were injured. The data also notes that 70% of the fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m. No one likes to hear or read about saddening statistics, but a percentage this high should cause runners who lace up their shoes at any point in the aforementioned time frame to pause and evaluate their visibility plan – assuming that there is one. Pedestrian safety is paramount when the sun is done, and the moon is full.
As someone who prefers to blend into larger crowds, the opposite is true for me as a runner when I venture outside, and light is minimal or non-existent. To put another way, I blend out. I make a scene with my beams. I want to be noticed so I can stay safe. See and be seen by others – this is the gist of night running. How this is done will be unpacked in greater detail in a later article, but suffice it to say that numerous pieces of gear to increase visibility are available at your local Big Peach. Guest Advocates can help you put together an effective package that will accommodate your preferences.
An extension of visibility that segues nicely into this “blend out” theme is awareness. Light provides visibility, but the onus of knowing the route, wherever it may be, is incumbent upon runners. Scrutinize the routes you run. Know every nook and cranny, every crag and crevice. Steer clear of loose asphalt, holes, or other debris. Awareness during a run is much stronger if the route is well trodden, i.e. familiar, routine. Sticking with oft-repeated routes is a wise approach for early morning or late evening runs.
I tend to run alone, but there is power in community. In fact, this power is further amplified when daylight is in short supply, and visibility is impaired. I give you the mighty group run. Every Big Peach Running Co. location has a group run at some point during the week, and a large number of people with many visibility products between them translates into a large, glowing herd across the city sidewalks. Drivers in the area will (hopefully) take notice of this herd, and (hopefully) slow down as they approach traffic lights and intersections. There’s safety in numbers.
Though safety and visibility are the major tenets to heed for night running, they should not strip away at the element of fun. Night running is enjoyable. Aside from the occasional car here and there, night runs tend to be ideal for solitude and tranquility when the rush hour finally fades, and people settle into their homes for the evening. Ditch the music too and take note of the silence that begins to slowly overtake the landscape. Listen to nature instead of Spotify.
Finally, remember that races don’t always start at 7 a.m. on a Saturday or Sunday. Night races are plentiful these days, and typically begin at dusk or later. Many ultramarathons are 12 and 24 hours in duration, which means that time under the stars will be a part of the course. And there’s no shortage of races across the United States with glow sticks, neon paint, and lasers. As for staying visible – that will not be a problem at these. The black lights have you covered.
Austin Bonds is a Guest Advocate at the Big Peach Suwanee location.