Blinded by the Night

Winter is here. While the Night King has been defeated, darkness reigns. No, I’m not writing a fan fiction novel here but rather just describing what it’s like to run at this time of year. Whether you are a morning runner or a post-work runner, you’re probably doing it right now in the dark during the week. I am and it’s certainly a different experience for me. What makes it so different is that my pace is a lot slower even though my effort feels the same. In my head, I’m thinking I’m at 7:25-7:30 pace easy. Nope. Wrong. 7:55-8:05. What?! But my effort feels like I’m running faster. What’s going on? Well, my eyes are deceiving me. It’s true sort of. It’s called optic flow. This article sums it up here.

If you didn’t read it, basically you can only see objects close to you at night. It seems like they’re zipping by you faster than if you were running during the day when you see much more. When objects are moving past you quickly, your perceived effort seems much harder even though it’s not. I likely slow down subconsciously thinking I’m running too hard. It’s my brain and eyes messing with me. So what can I do about it? I could pick up my pace to compensate but I need to slow down during training runs anyway so there’s no point to do that. I’ll just keep chugging along.

Running in the dark certainly is different. I tend to start my runs between 5:30 and 6:15pm. But it feels like I’m running at 10pm. It’s quieter with not as many people out walking. Even the Rose Bowl loop at that time has fewer people than it would in the Spring and Summer at the same time. I finish convinced it’s so late in the day. But it’s not even 7pm!

I wear a headlamp and reflective vest to increase my visibility. It makes a difference because it’s really hard to see other runners and cyclists at times if they don’t have similar items on. You don’t want a collision which has almost happened with me.

This is night running in early 2021.

Personally, I prefer running with daylight. I like seeing my surroundings. But the peace and quiet of night running has a certain calm about it.

What do you prefer? Dark or daytime running? Let me know in the comments below.

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