Dark nights (and mornings for that matter) can be a pain, and the prospect of going out on a run in the dark, especially alone, can seem pretty unappealing at time. However, once you get yourself up and out, running in the dark is not as bad as anticipated and it helps you find that time that you need to run.
Run with others
As with the any kind of training, it is always more bearable if there is someone else to train with. If this means getting yourself along to a club and meeting up with other runners, then you should do this. Not only is this great for your motivation and commitment levels, there is also the added safety bonus of not running alone.
Run faster but shorter
To make the most of running sessions in the dark, you may have to alter your training slightly. A simple way of doing this is to cut back on your distance but instead pick up the pace. Put simply, running 5 miles (8km) quickly will bring similar benefit to running ten miles slowly. Quality not quantity is what counts when running.
Here's some tips aimed beginner, intermediate, and more advanced runners to help maximise your benefits from short running sessions in the dark:
Decrease the length of your run in actual time but try and make an effort to run at a faster pace. For example, instead of running 30 minutes slowly, try 20 minutes fast. It may feel more uncomfortable running fast but at least it’s over quicker. As you get fitter; try keeping the same pace but running for longer. This way you will see an improvement in your fitness over time.
Intermediate club athletes
On a 30 minute run, every five minutes try and pick up the pace so that by the end you are running quite hard. Gradually get faster throughout the run until the last five minutes feels uncomfortably hard. As your fitness levels go up, make the last uncomfortably hard part of your run longer. Eventually you should be able to run the whole 30 minutes at this uncomfortable hard (threshold) pace. 30 minutes is about the maximum that should be done when threshold running.
More experienced runners
Threshold running should be an integral part of your training by now. Try dropping to less than 30 minutes but running even faster than before. For example, 20 minutes at the new faster pace. Eventually move up to the 30 minutes again, but when you get there and feel comfortable again, drop down to 20 minutes again and run even faster. As you can see this is a never ending cycle but it works and definitely gets you fitter and faster.