As daylight hours decrease, runners seek safety

A runner on the Inner Harbor promenade in the early morning.
A runner on the Inner Harbor promenade in the early morning. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / The Baltimore Sun)

Adrienne Dulaj, a social worker from White Marsh, spends most of her days working in areas that she considers dangerous. Also an avid runner, Dulaj has to schedule her workouts to avoid those same neighborhoods at night.

"I don't want to be in some of these areas in the day sometimes," she said. "I just don't do it if it's not the right time of day. I like to know someone is around."


With the Baltimore Running Festival and other popular fall footraces fast approaching, local runners have had to take care deciding where and when they run. Some have struggled in recent weeks as daylight has grown scarce on either side of normal business hours.

As the days have condensed, running in the dark has become a concern for some, just in time for one of distance running's busiest seasons. By the end of August, sunrise was at 6:34 a.m., and sunset was at 7:38 p.m. But Thursday, sunrise was at 7:11 a.m. and sunset was at 6:35 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

"You have to be more cognizant of when you're going out," said Lindsay Wilner, a Fells Point resident and runner. "You don't want to be here, around Baltimore, especially at certain times when it's dark out."

Police and victims say that runners who listened to music were targeted and mugged on numerous occasions for their cell phones and other valuables, often in the early morning or late afternoon. There have been 1,777 reported street robberies this year in the city, up by 8 percent from the same time last year, police statistics show.

Overall, most street robberies occur at night and young adults are most likely to be targeted in the evening, according to a 2010 Street Robbery guide published by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. Also, city-dwellers are at a higher risk for street crime.

Wilner, who has trained for the Baltimore's half marathon by running the Inner Harbor Promenade around sunrise, said she tries not to do so alone.

"I try to run with a partner if I'm not going to be here when the sun is out," Wilner said.

Jim Adams, the founder of Falls Road Running Store, said runners with jobs and families aren't always able to run during the day. But that doesn't mean they can't run safely at odd hours.

"You run when your schedule allows you to," Adams said. "Run aware of your surroundings and run with a friend and run in the safe areas."

Adams advises runners to leave the headphones at home regardless of the time.

"The broader issue with the cell phones is that people like to run listening to their music, but when they do they are blocking out the rest of the world," Adams said. "They are totally unaware of what is going on around them and that makes them very easy targets."

Charm City Run Manager Deirdre Weadock said runners can buy headphones that don't block out noise. She also said she noticed an increase in runners buying portable pepper spray cans.

Runners should wear reflective material or bright clothing, she said, especially while running in the city.

"I have a lot of pride in this city, so I don't want to say there are some places where you can't run in Baltimore," Weadock said. "I think anytime that you are running really before dawn or after sunset, you would hopefully be with a few other people."


Both Weadock and Adams said most places are safe to run in groups. For solo runs, Patterson Park and Druid Hill Park are popular and have a lot of green space, but should be used cautiously at night. The back hills of Druid Hill Park can be isolated, which is why Adams suggests running near the lake and in other, more public areas.

Fort McHenry has a one-mile loop that is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at least when the federal government is not in the midst of a shutdown. The loop is known for its scenic view of the harbor. .

Gwynns Falls Trail is usually safe, Adams said, and isn't crowded, but is better for daytime running.

Robert E. Lee Park and Stoney Run Park also have miles of running space, while street runners can run down Roland Avenue, which has lots of bike lanes.

"Bike lanes give you plenty of room to run in," Adams said. "You don't have to worry about tripping over sidewalks, and there is plenty of space so you don't have to worry about cars."

The Baltimore Running Festival — which includes a marathon, half marathon, relay, 5K and kids fun run — is Saturday, but some local runners will be readying for other nearby races over the next several weeks.

The Army Ten-Miler is Oct. 20 and the Marine Corps Marathon is Oct. 27, both in Washington. The New York City Marathon is Nov. 3 and the Philadelphia Marathon is Nov. 17.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun