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As the nights draw in should we stop having fun on the trails?

Updated: Jan 23

women running at night

Why do we love trail running?

For me trail running gives me the space to explore beautiful places, which is fantastic for both my physical and mental well-being. It makes me feel alive.

I love to push myself, while being in nature, having fun and getting dirty. I have grown as a person by building confidence in my physical ability, making the odd mistake here and there with my curiosity to explore but that adds to the enjoyment. On, top of that the trail running community special and supportive; I have made lifelong friends through races and adventures. Most of all though trail running is about having fun, not taking myself too seriously and bringing out my inner child.

As the nights draw in should we stop having as much fun on the trails? Absolutely not.

night trails

What makes running at night so special?

Exploring trails in the dark heightens your senses. You need to concentrate as you run. The trails look and sound different from in the day; it’s a great chance to see and hear wildlife.

When running routes that have little or no light pollution, turn your head lamp off for a while and look at the stars. There is something special about running hills above a town the lights look pretty and you feel alive as your breath is exposed in the night.

Whether you are training for a race that will mean running in the dark and you want to get used to night running first or if you just want to have a nocturnal adventure. The more opportunities you give yourself the more your confidence will grow.

Rachel Murphy, trail running coach

As a coach and run leader here are my 3 top tips for runners, when run at night:

1. Stay safe

Plan your route, I always have my route on my Suunto 9, even familiar trails can look different at night and can be disorientating, and I can always use the find back feature too. I always tell someone where I am going and how long I expect to be. I have Find my phone turned on my fully charged phone just in case I had an accident and always take an extra layer and a first aid kit, including a foil blanket. I recommend grabbing a friend or two or joining a group run; not only is it great fun, doing it with others, it feels reassuringly safer than being on your own. You can find our latest guide night runs on the website. Not only do they give you company and feel safer, but you don’t have to worry about getting lost, because I plan the route and guide you along the trails.

trail running head lamp

2. Use a trail specific headlamp

The first run I did on trails at night, I used a headlamp that I thought was good enough as it had always been great running around my village, but it was not, and I really struggled to see where I was going.

I use and recommend the SILVA TRAIL RUNNER FREE H/ULTRA, which is nice, light and comfortable to wear. It uses SILVA’s Intelligent light system. This gives you a long reach spotlight combined with close flood light with the choice of 400, 200 and 50 lumens depending on what setting you choose. The headlamp is water-resistant so it can be used in heavy rain or if it has got wet in your pack during a day on the trails. The power cords are integrated into the headband leaving it free from distracting wires that sometimes get tangled.

The hybrid battery pack is incredibly lightweight and slimline; you can either use the rechargeable battery or AAA batteries. I love the rear safety light which is great for extra safety when you find yourself on a dark country lane or for me as a run guide/coach it is handy for my groups can see me from behind.

When you join a She Runs Outdoors girls’ night out we have demo SILVA torches for you to try, make sure you message us before the run so we can save you one.

women running trails at night time

3. Vision on the trails

Just like you would use vision on the trails in the daytime a good trail specific headlamp will illuminate where you are running so adjust your lamp to where you need to see, you want to be scanning about 5-10 metres ahead of you. Just like daytime running resist the urge to look down at your feet, by looking ahead your brain will be able to react to anything on the trails before you get there, and your feet will go where they need to. Slow down until you are used to running at night. If you are going out for a long time get used to the different settings on your lamp. When you are going uphill slowly and not needing to concentrate as hard, adjust your beam onto a lower setting and save the battery, save that full power for running fast!

Where’s your favourite place to run?

It would be hard to pick my favourite place ever to run as there are too many to choose from.

When it comes to running at night though, I don’t think you can beat the confidence and familiarity of local trails. So, for me I would say I love the forest trails of either the Surrey Hills or South Downs near where I live. I know them incredibly well; I can zone out and not have to concentrate on the route on my watch so often. I feel a rush of adrenaline running fast along the winding single tracks. I love hearing owls and seeing deer and bats. Stopping at the top of the highest point and looking out and the cold nights sky with the twinkling lights below, is so peaceful.

Find out more about our night trails and come and join us here

light trails in forest

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