In which I run in the dark

Have you ever noticed that this time of year people talk about the days getting shorter? Well, I’ve got news: they’re actually not getting any shorter; they’re still 24 hours, believe it or not! Hel-lo! But it does get dark sooner. Which is how I came to find myself one night running in the dark.

Now many comedians out there would opine that running in the dark shouldn’t come as a shock to me since I’m already in the dark about lots of things. However, it is a novelty: running in the dark, that is; not the being in the dark about lots of other things, which, incidentally, isn’t entirely true. Not really.

I mean it is true that I am naive about lots of things and easily taken in, but thousands of people have sent money to Nigeria, so what’s your point? And, yes, I was convinced when that nice man phoned me about the virus in my computer that it was a good idea to give him my credit card number to extract it.

Happens to lots of people. Really.

As I was saying, it was a Thursday Autumn evening, with a chill in the air and I met the Tantallon Trail Bugs outside of Lefty’s Bar and Grill (and, no, I’m not making that place up; I love the name. Whenever I see Lefty’s, I always imagine a scene out of a Raymond Chandler novel, the hard-boiled detective, crisply telling the party on the other end of the phone: “Meet me at Lefty’s!”).

We set out toward the trail, which in typical Trail Bug fashion featured a steep climb right off the start on a washed-out fire road strewn with large rocks. That put my heart rate into the zone immediately, a nice, steady 290 beats per minute that made me feel as if that particular muscle was attempting to detach itself from my chest and leap up my throat and run for freedom on its own.

We turned onto double-track and climbed and descended a series of sharp hills, heading further and further out. It wasn’t all just the hard work of running though. Some fun times were to be had, some good laughs to be shared, like when Jodi tried to first viciously hip-check me and then physically wrestle me into a puddle not quite the size of a pond over the trail.

Oh, how we good-naturedly  guffawed at those shenanigans.

Of course, having reached the far end of the trail, it was now dark out and we still had to run back three-and-a-half kilometres before Lefty’s would provide us with sustenance and beer. So we panicked!

Ha ha. I’m just fooling around with you. We actually – wait for it – reached up and turned on our headlamps.

I’ll tell you, lighting technology has come a long way from the times when I mountain biked in the woods at night with a large, heavy battery strapped to my bike frame, the former powering a set of lights that blazed out a total of 25 watts.

The light-weight lamp I wear on my head is blindingly bright, something you invariably learn every run when you say something to someone and they reply, “Huh?” and turn and look at you, erasing your sight for the next 30 minutes.

If you haven’t run in the woods with a light (preferably with other people; it’s really, really creepy, particularly in Fall, on your own), you’re missing one of life’s rare pleasures. Throw the switch on your headlamp and you’re enlightened! You can see!

Well, okay, that’s slightly exaggerated. The lamp casts a tunnel of light up the path and as you begin to run, you can see maybe 15 feet ahead. It’s an eerie but joyous feeling, running through the silent woods, rocks, roots and uneven ground rushing up upon you. It’s like trail running times 10, even more concentrated, more essential. Your worries are way back in the day light. This is just you and the trail, the light pushing away the darkness squeezing, leaking in around the small, friendly glowing circle that guides you.

It’s nearly perfect. Jodi glides up and says, “Hey, you’re really starting to get into this trail running, aren’t you.”

I look at him and, at the precise moment, in my most eloquent fashion trip over a rock and go sprawling. But I’m okay! I’m okay! We’re up and running again, running past the cell tower winking at us in the night as if in approval of our crazy activity, running down the rutted fire road, running toward Lefty’s, toward food and beer and back toward our lives, leaving the black woods to the coyotes, to the furtive rustling of leaves in the dark, dark, secret night.


Get illuminated

After a fair bit of research, I opted for the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp for running. It offered an appealing combination of brightness, reliability, good battery life, and all-around good design for its price point. So far I’ve used the LED light at its medium level and found that more than adequate for the running I’ve done.

Three AAA batteries power the 90 lumen lamp. Burn rate on medium level is an astonishing 90 hours, covering 15 metres of ground. At high, the lamp will sustain itself for 50 hours, casting a light over 70 metres. The light pattern is accurately described as wide and spot. For $38.50, the Black Diamond is a bargain.

The link to reviews and more is here:


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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6 Responses to In which I run in the dark

  1. Dawn says:

    My runs in the wee hours of the morning. My headlamp and I are pretty good buddies. I wish someone would make one with padding around the lamp and a more cushiony strap. It’s not so bad once winter hat season starts, but I find the plastic annoying against my forehead when I’m not wearing a hat or a hairband.

  2. Dawn says:

    (That first sentence should have a verb in it. It should say “My runs are in the wee hours of the morning.” It’s early. I’ll be OK.)

  3. Steph Moore says:

    Christ almighty, you almost make me want to get out there to run in the dark. Yikes.

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

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