It is a rare occurrence for me to be able to run in the daylight. 80% of my training happens between 4:30am-6:30am. For many months of the year, it is dark. My daughter is still at home, my son is in SK, and I work in the evenings after my husband gets home. There is zero chance of me running at 8pm at night after a whole day. My bed is calling at that point! So pre dawn running it is.
I frequently get asked "how do you get up that early?", or "are you not scared?". Truthfully, I love to get up early. 4:15am or 4:30am requires an alarm, but my 5am runs are not a struggle for me. I love to run, I love the alone time combined with the silence, and I love knowing by 6:30am I have already started my day, and feel accomplished. If your goals do not make you want to jump out of bed in the morning, then you may need to alter your focus!
I have only been scared on a few occasions. Usually it is an animal of some sort that seemingly appears out of nowhere, and I end up booking it the other way. I have been chased by a momma duck protecting her ducklings (picture me running down the middle of the road in the dark, away from a honking duck :D). I have run away from coyotes (thankfully never chased), and dodged more than a few skunks and racoons. Only one encounter with a dog that was not on a leash lunging at me. I am still baffled at why people think their animals do not need to be on a leash.
There is next to zero night life in the town that I live in. I may pass a few people here and there when I run that early, and all have been harmless. Most people are waiting at bus stops, or walking their dogs. I could probably use my two hands to count the number of other runners I have seen that early. The only human that ever scared me was a disheveled looking man riding some sort of motorized bike in the middle of the sidewalk. "Look out or I'm gonna f**king hit ya!" he calls out to me as I veer to the side. So strange but funny at the same time. Where was he going? Where did he even come from? Ha!
Bonuses to getting your run finished before the sunrise include:
1. Having the rest of the day to dedicate to other things
2. It forces you to practice self discipline, and be diligent with time management
3. You can practice some carb depleted runs (helps your body become more efficient at using fat as fuel)
4. Increased energy for the rest of your day - the exception for me here is a tempo run that begins at 4:xx am. By mid day I need a nap! Or coffee if that is not possible
5. You can add more mileage (if that is your goal) by adding a second run in later in the day
6. Alone/quiet time before the commotion of a busy day begins - EVERYONE would benefit from this!
7. Seeing the sunrise NEVER gets old for me. I love it.
Tips to becoming a pre dawn runner:
1. Make it a habit
Begin by trying it 1-2 days a week. Gradually work your way up to setting your alarm that early 3-4 times a week. A month or two of this and it will just become what you do. That is how you begin the day. It will seem like you have actually added hours to your day, as your afternoon/evening hours are now free.
2. Invest in some reflective clothing
A reflective vest or even an LED arm light will be necessary so that you can be seen.
3. Do not obey pedestrian traffic signs
Haha weird I know. But I act as if no one can see me. If the sign indicates "walk" and there is a car that is going to turn left, even if I had 10 glowsticks sport taped to my face, I would still not go until that car has turned.
4. Run wide around dogs
Even if the dog's owner is responsible and the dog is on a leash, run wide around them. Chances are the dog and the owner will be a bit surprised when you run past them. You don't want the dog running/jumping at you.
5. Bring your phone
This one is obvious. If something does happen you want to be able to make a phone call fast. Two years ago, I flew over the handle bars of my bike and smashed 3 teeth out of my mouth. I did not have my phone and somehow managed to ride the bike home. Ugh.
6. Do not wear music/headphones
You want to be able to hear what is around you. If you are listening to music or a pod cast then you may not hear someone behind you, a car, etc.
7. Stick to main roads that are well lit
This will ensure that there are always at least some cars going by or people waiting at bus stops. I will run the same 2km stretch back and forth for a tempo run just to make sure I know my footing and it is well lit.
8. Lay your clothes out the night before/have a pre run snack ready
When my alarm goes of, I can just grab the pile and change quickly. I drink some water, eat half a banana or nothing and am out the door within 15min of waking. The exception here is a long workout. Before that I eat toast with almond butter and honey before I go.
In the few summer months, the early mornings make for cooler workouts
I totally understand that not everyone's schedule is the same, and that due to life/work circumstances, running in the early hours is not actually possible for everyone. But If you are simply staying up late and sleeping in, and feeling like you need "more time" to train/read/socialize/work then squeezing your run in before the day is underway will help with time management! That out running, getting it done feeling while most of the city is sleeping will make you feel badass! I promise!