If you like me have at some point run in the dark, you may be wondering, do I run faster in the dark? Is there any reason I might run faster in the dark? Well, I’m Jessie Funk, and on today’s episode of Runner’s High, I have a story to tell you about running in the dark.
This is one of the things where everybody’s probably got an opinion on it, do it, don’t do it. You know, avoid it, wear this safety gear, do this kind of thing, stay in this area. We’re not going to talk about any of that kind of stuff today. I’ll probably cover that in another video.
And if you want to see that video, hit that subscribe button there in the bottom right-hand corner, stick around me for more episodes of Runner’s High. But I want to share with you kind of anecdotal evidence that yes, in fact, running in the dark, does help you run faster. And I think there’s a reason for it, which I’ll get to at the end of this video.
Now, this story basically has to do with my high school team, after a new coach took over my senior year, and then is still going now. He does a summer cross country trip with the kids every single year. And as a ritual of that trip, somewhere in that week-long camp, he does a midnight run. And pretty much without fail. It is the fastest run of the training camp every single year. He refers to it as catching lightning in a bottle. And it just happens.
Now, maybe it’s possible that this coach simply inspires the kids to run faster, and there’s an expectation of running faster. But the ritual didn’t start out of nowhere. It started with a series of doing it partly for the fun. And then, because of the consistency of the practice, the consistency of having those good runs at that time, it continued on and has become a thing.
Now, again, this is just anecdotal. But if we think about what’s going on here, what are the possible reasons this is happening? It might make sense for us to say, “Okay, there’s a reason. And it makes sense why they’re running faster.” So, this group of kids is going to be relatively inexperienced, right. So, they’re not going to be super dialed in on their pacing, they’re still in their first few years of running.
And if that’s where you are, then I highly recommend finding a safe place to try this out sometime. And that means probably close trail system, not on the roads, that kind of thing. But I say that because if you are in your first few years, and you haven’t really dialed in that pacing, that means you’re not really all super aware of all the things going on with your body, and how to dial in your pace for going fast.
Now, when you are running in the dark, you take out a major component of pacing. And that is all the things in your visual eyeline that are distracting you as you’re moving through space, it takes out all that information your brain is processing, and it helps you hone in, inward on how do I feel? Can I go faster, you know, can I push myself? And I think that is largely why these kids find success in the midnight run is because they have the time and the challenge to say I want to go fast and they can focus inward.
Just how do my legs feel? How do my lungs feel? They’re not seeing all these visual cues. Because that’s one method of pacing is knowing how fast things are moving past you. When you have past that though, then you’re focused entirely on that internal sense of pacing, what I refer to is rate of perceived exertion.
Now, I’m not the only one that uses that term. But I often talk about that here on this channel. And rate of perceived exertion is going to be your key to long-term success regardless of how much gadgetry you want to use. Now, you’re here on YouTube with me, which means you like technology. So do I. I’ve got a camera, that’s how I’m talking to you. But no matter who I talk to on my other show, the Smart Athlete Podcast where I interview experts in different sports fields.
They almost always say regardless of how sophisticated we get those measures, RPE is a reliable source of information. And it almost always tracks with the data that they’re getting to talk about fatigue, pacing, all those kind of things. So, learning to dial in on your RPE is very important as a runner.
So, if you are early in your career or you’re really not great at pacing, try a couple runs after dark in a place you know, you’re familiar with, has good footing, all those kind of things because you want to stay safe. But allow those visual cues to subside. Let go of them and try something out. Try a tempo run, try, you know, a fast couple miles, whatever is within your fitness ability, try something a little bit quicker, see how it goes, see how fast you can run when all you have to focus on is internal, and not all of the external stimuli that’s going to be distracting.
So, for me, I’m going to say yes, running in the dark does make you run faster. Please share your stories with me. What have you found? Have you been able to catch lightning in a bottle? Leave them down in the comments below, share your story with me so we can share it all together here in this running community. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.