Running At Night Appears Harder – Why?

Night running may seem harder and more challenging. But why?

Night running may seem harder and more challenging. But why?

Sundown Marathon, Singapore’s largest night race is fast approaching.

And to prepare for the race, you would have probably gone for some training runs at night. But have you found that your night runs appear to be harder than your morning runs?

Fret not. You haven’t suddenly lost fitness.

There is a reason for this, and it is backed up by research too.

Here is what researchers, headed by David Perry, from the University of Essex in Britain, have found out.

This perception is actually due to something called optic flow. Basically it is how you perceive your environment as you are moving through it.

When you are running at night, it is dark, so you’ll only see what’s near you – not objects in the distance. And because of this, it gives you the sensation that everything is moving much faster than they actually are. So if you are running at night, you’ll feel as though you are running faster too, because things around you seem to be moving faster.

Affects your perception of distance

This affects your body’s perception of how much you have run. The study on competitive runners had them do a 5km run under ‘faster’ optic flow conditions. (Running in situations where your optic flow is perceived to be quicker). The runners thought they had run 5km when they had actually only done 4.6km.

They felt more tired compared to when they did the same 5km run at exactly the same pace, under conditions of “slower” optic flow.

A study done on cyclists proved the same results

A 2012 study done by the same group of researchers, on a group of cyclists, also concurred with these results.

The cyclists had also felt they were going faster and thus, felt more fatigued sooner in conditions with a “faster” optic flow – compared to conditions where they were cycling with a “slower” optic flow.

Something to think about for Sundown Marathon runners

So there is definitely some degree of truth as to why your night runs seem harder than your morning running sessions.

This is something that you may want to ponder about, when you are running at the Sundown Marathon – at the end of May this year. As they say, ‘it’s all in the mind.’

Other Blog Posts

Bring on the Night at Sundown Marathon

Sundown Marathon: Challenge for Blind Runners

Sundown Marathon: My 42km Run with Love

Applying Acti-Tape for Running Injuries

External Resources

Why Running at Night Seems Harder

Why Running in the Dark May Seem Harder

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