Which leads me to a topic I'm very passionate about: reflective gear. That's right, I'm the kid that judges you when she sees you running sans a light or reflective gear. There's a common misconception in the running world that a white hat or clothing is enough. (Click the link for a demo.) It's not. I've been on the same trail as some of you and didn't see you until my pack leaders passed you. Worse, I've been driving when you've crossed - against the light in many cases - in front of my 40 mph moving vehicle.
No, you're not going to look as cute with a reflective vest. Yes, you might look like an alien if you make yourself really visible. (I wish I had a picture of Dad's getup. It's amazing and he will not be run over.) Personally, I'd rather look like an alien than be roadkill.
The biggest struggle is the "I'll only be running in the dark for 30 minutes, so I'm not going to bother with the safety gear." Jason and I have fallen into this trap. The one time I went running by myself this exact thought went through my head. You know what happened? I was nearly hit by a car at two separate intersections. It was just before sunset - ie, there was still a "reasonable" about of light. I dealt with a lot of whining from some Hood to Coast teammates about the "must wear reflective gear and a front and back LED flashers between 6:00 pm and 7 am" rule. But you know what? I think H2C has it right and this should be the norm for runners. (The H2C takes place in late August, basically an hour before sundown is a good time to put on your reflective gear.)
Here are my top picks for safety gear:
Brooks Nightlife Hat - This hat has a comforting level of reflective material and a button LED flasher in the back. It's lightweight, comfortable, and sweat wicking. My only complaint is when my hair was longer the pigtails didn't work as well for me - it was kinda like not pulling my hair back at all. Usually I put my hair through the hat opening, but that blocks the flasher if you need to use it. I attach a cap light to the bill so I can see where I'm going and it works well - especially for Hood to Coast night runs. (The hat flasher counts as your rear LED flasher.)
Amphipod Xinglet. Again, it's lightweight, dries quickly, and is less restricting than the traditional vests. I attach a front and rear $5 LED button flasher from the Portland Running Company. The flasher is so simple I can't find anything similar online, so here's an Amphipod Flasher, but know the red button ones are just as good.
In the cold weather my Momentum Running Gloves from Mountain Hardwear (pictured) are indispensable. They keep my hands warm, and are breathable, so I never get too warm. The reflective dots are handy for waving at stopped cars. (On a side note, someone needs to make gloves with reflective dots on the palm. It's awkward to wave at people with the back of your hand.) The right index finger has an opening so you can access your touch screen electronics. I don't use that, but I guess it's neat.
I also try to always buy clothing with some form of reflective striping on them. Most shoes have some reflective material on the back or sides, and on our night runs we've noticed some shoes are more visible than others. (Unfortunately it's dark, so we have no way of knowing which shoes are better about this.) My new sub-zero Skirts tights from RunningSkirts is my new favorite winter gear item. I pretty much want to wear it everywhere. The reflective twins are cute, too. ;-)
I don't like shoelaces. My husband and Dad spent a good three months listening to me complain about my shoelaces before I discovered Yankz! When I found them at Fit Right NW, I knew they were the solution to my shoelaces-tied-once-come-untied/shoelaces-doubled-tickle-my-ankle conundrum. And, since I'm crazy about being seen, I opted for the reflective and white ones. (My tying job isn't as cool as the ads and I'm not sure how comfortable I would be with cutting the laces, so I haven't.)
What's your can't-run-without winter item?
Have a safe and happy run!