5 Tips for Racing at Night

How to Be Safe and Run Your Best at Night

Running a race at night can be a fun, exciting experience and a great change of pace from the usual getting up with the sun to run a morning race. From midnight fun runs to theme races at night to 24-hour relay races, there are loads of opportunity to run races in the dark.  Of course, racing at night requires some different preparation and safety precautions than racing in the morning, so use these tips to ensure you have a great performance.

Wear bright-colored, reflective clothing.

night running
Photo by Scott Markewitz

A night race is not the time to wear your favorite, cool-looking black running attire.  Wear the brightest or lightest color running clothes you have - white, yellow, or orange clothes. Also, make sure you have reflective gear on. Although some items (running shoes, jackets) already have reflective pieces on them, it doesn't hurt to add more.

Try to relax, but also keep busy during the day.

Woman reading and relaxing
Dana Tezarr

One of the hardest parts about racing at night is that you have a lot of pre-race time when you're awake and plenty of time to think about and get nervous for your race. Keeping your mind occupied will prevent you from focusing too much on the race and getting anxious.  Of course, you don’t want to be walking around a lot or doing anything that will make you too tired for the race. Try reading a book, watching a movie, or hanging with some friends – anything that will keep you from obsessing about the race.

Also see: How to Manage Pre-race Anxiety

Use lights.

Princeton Tec Flashlight
Photo courtesy of PriceGrabber

Some night races are very well-lit with flood lights through the entire course.  In other cases – such as a middle-of-the-night leg in a 24-hour relay race -- you may find yourself racing alone in the darkness. If that’s the case, the race may have specific rules you need to follow for running in the dark, such as wearing a flashing vest.  Even if the race doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to run with lights. A flashlight such as this Princeton Tec one is not heavy, but still powerful. If you don’t feel like holding a light, there are vests or belts that have them mounted, so you can run hands-free.

Also see:

Plan your eating.

Peanut butter on toast
Kirk Mastin/Aurora/Getty Images

Another tricky part about racing at night is that you have to think about and plan out a lot more pre-race eating than if you’re running a race in the morning. You’ll want to start out with a healthy breakfast that will supply most of your energy for the day. Try to eat a balanced and simple meal, similar to what you’d eat before a morning long run.

In the afternoon, you should eat a small meal, such as a sandwich. Choose something simple that will digest quickly. Again, you shouldn’t experiment with any new foods – stick to those that you ate before your training runs so there are no surprises. Try to finish that meal about 4-5 hours before your race start. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

About 90 before your race, eat another small meal, similar to what you eat before your long training runs. Good options are a bagel with peanut butter or some toast and a banana. 

Also see:

Don't start out too fast.

Pacing at night can be more difficult than pacing in daylight because the lack of visual perception makes you feel like you’re running very fast. Try following these steps to avoid going out too fast.

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