Training Blog


Blinky Lights

Blinky Lights
by Hobbit Singleton

One of these things is not like the others – can you guess which one is different?
blinky light, reflective vest, light colored clothing, cap with light in bill and/or in back, battery powered strand of Christmas lights, iron-on reflective tape, chocolate cake
All of you who guessed chocolate cake (and I’m really hoping you didn’t have to guess) get a gold star.  When we talk about important pieces of equipment for running or walking, reflective gear is at the top of the list.  Whether you train early in the morning or later in the evening, chances are, at some point you’re going to find yourself training in the dark.  Okay, if you’re training on a treadmill early in the morning, or late in the evening, you probably won’t need to worry so much about reflective gear, but at some point (I hope), you’re going to need to wean yourself away from the treadmill and do some training outside to prepare yourself for race day conditions.
If you’re training with our group or receiving my emails, you get nagged unmercifully about “blinky” lights.  Just what are blinky lights?  I’m so glad you asked.  What I call a blinky light is any kind of light that can be attached to your body or water belt in some form or fashion.  I don’t care if it’s a steady burning light, a blinking light, a pulsating light, or one that flashes the theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind in multiple colors, just as long as it makes you highly visible when you’re out training.  You can usually find different safety blinking lights at running stores, biking stores, sporting goods stores, retail stores, and on-line.  One of my favorite blinking lights is sold at, and it is called the Firefly Supernova.  You can also find inexpensive blinking lights that pin on in the holiday section of most retail stores – not only does it blink, but you can have a themed blinking light – pumpkin, ghost, turkey, snowman, well you get the idea.  When I mentioned the battery powered strand of Christmas lights, I wasn’t joking, one of our athletes trains in the early morning hours with a small strand of Christmas lights that she wraps around her torso – not only do you see her coming toward you (or moving away), it’s a twofer, cause it always makes you smile. 
If you’re not into blinking like a Christmas tree, then you could always go for the more traditional reflective vest – also sold in many different venues.  And if you’ve got the image in your head of the old, bulky crossing guard vest you remember from your elementary school days, toss that out – the new generation of vests are light weight and breathable (which is really important if you’re training in heat and humidity).  I picked up a new reflective (well, it’s not really a vest, looked more like suspenders to me) thingy for Tom today that has the reflective material front and back AND also has LED lights that flash.
If you still aren’t loving any of those ideas, you can go to a fabric store and buy about 12 inches or so of reflective ribbon and iron it or sew it on your water belt.  If you don’t want to permanently stick something to your water belt or your shirt – cut that ribbon into strips and safety pin it to your belt or your clothes.  We did a midnight race last year that required you to have reflective safety ribbon and I sewed some onto my water belt.  It is very effective and not expensive.
The point to all this, other than just to see how creative we can be with lights and reflective tape, is to make sure you are highly visible to drivers, cyclists, and other runners and walkers.  I try really hard to do a good job of looking for athletes who are out on foot or on a bicycle, but even those of us who think we’re being cautious can be caught by surprise.  I was heading to meet my training partner one morning about 4:30 am and all of a sudden, a runner just seemed to appear out of nowhere.  It was a cooler morning and he was dressed all in black from the cap on his head to the shoes on his feet.  There was not a reflective strip of anything on his apparel.  There was no sidewalk on the street I was on and he was running right down the middle of the lane in which I was driving.  I only saw him when he ran under a street light and, luckily, was able to avoid hitting him.  I was also lucky that I’ve been training for marathons and half marathons for 10 years now, because I believe that’s all that kept me from having a heart attack, he scared me so badly.  That runner probably doesn’t realize how close he came to being hit, but I do, and sadly, he’s not the only runner or walker that I’ve seen out that was almost invisible.
Bottom line, please, please, please get some kind of reflective gear or light to help folks see you when all they have on their mind is getting to the nearest coffee shop and not the athletes who are out on the street getting in their training mileage.  If you don’t have the time or the money to get something right away, at least pull out clothing that is light in color – don’t depend upon the 2-inch strip of reflective material on your shoes to keep you safe.
Oh, and for all of you who earned the gold star?  You know if I had them to pass out, they would be bright and blinking!
Posted on October 26, 2011 by admin under

2 Responses to “Blinky Lights”

  1. Jimmy!! says:

    I’m a fanatic about visibility. I always try to use a combination of lights and reflective. If you’ve been getting Hobbit’s emails for a while, I was the runner whom Hobbit saw in Maumelle last December “lit up like a Christmas tree” but running on the wrong side of the road. At the time I was using a half-dozen of these cheap LED blinkies that I got online.
    If you buy in bulk (25 or more)they’re quite reasonably priced. The batteries are replaceable and also quite reasonable IF YOU BUY THEM FROM THE WEBSITE. Don’t even consider buying replacements at Wal-Mart.
    I’ve since moved on to a super bright LED headlamp (Princeton Tec EOS – $35 @Amazon), but for longer runs (>5 miles), I still like the blinkies – they stay in place better.
    I use a rubber strap on the headlamp with just enough tension to keep it from moving on my hat. This addresses one of the biggest negatives with the headlight – head squeezing. It works great until I sweat through the hat and then it gets slick and starts to move, but until it gets wet, the rubber headband works much better than the elastic ones. The rubber requires much less tension to stay in place than the elastic headband does. However I do NOT recommend the rubber headband directly on your head- hat only, it tugs on your hair. Having the light on your head not only gets it up high where cars can see it sooner when you’re cresting a hill, but also makes it very useful for your own vision if your path isn’t well-lit. The headlamp strap also serves as a great place to attach other lights. I clip a lightweight red blinking bicycle light to the back of the strap so I’m visible from behind.
    And even when I am lit up with LEDs I still always use reflective strips. At a minimum I have those velcro reflective strips around my ankles. You never know when your batteries may fizzle.

  2. Nancy G. says:

    Please also the batteries in your blinky lights. I ran with my red blinky on my back – dead this week (10/31-11/4). I was visible with my reflective vest and arm/leg band blinkies, but was surprised when I finished my run that the red blinky was dead.

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