This question was answered by Carol Gilpin of Fleet Feet Sports Vacaville and Fred Joslyn of Fleet Feet Sports Mechanicsburg.
Being safe and seen is of utmost importance when running in the dark. It isn't a bad thing to be a little scared of running after sunset, as it will make you more aware of your surroundings. We speak to our training programs about the "It could never happen to me" attitude because the reality is that anyone is at risk of being attacked while running. Still, you can take several precautions to not only run safely at night but have a fun time doing it.
Wear bright and reflective clothing, and a headlamp when running in the dark. The more, the better. Wear a reflective vest and light on your front and back—the more surface area that’s visible, the better. If you have exposed skin, try safety skin reflective skin spread; it can be applied directly to your skin. (Check out this post for our top 5 tips for staying visible.)
Do not run alone. Meet your running partner or bring along your four-legged furry friend for your run. Two people are much harder to control than one, so the likelihood of getting attacked while running with someone is dramatically less. If you don't have a partner to run with, then consider running with a dog (preferably over 10 pounds). Dogs not only make you a less attractive target, but they can sense danger before you can.
Ditch the headphones. As nice as it is to listen to your favorite tunes while on the road, it impedes your ability to hear what’s going on around you. If you must have music, keep the volume low and use only one earbud.
Pick your route and stay on the left side of the road. Try and run in well-lit and highly populated areas such as city centers or large neighborhoods. If you feel something isn't right, you’re probably correct, so change your route or even cut your run short. (Read this post to find out why you should run on the left side of the road.)
Consider carrying self-defense spray (if it is legal in your state), and make it easily accessible. Most running stores carry Pepper Spray or Runners Mace which, if sprayed in an attacker’s face, can stop him/her immediately. We suggest practicing using the spray while on a run and replacing the spray each year to ensure it hasn't expired.
Lastly, we recommend wearing a Road ID or carrying your phone with an enabled "Medical ID" function. This way if something does happen to you while out on a run (night or day) you can be taken to medical care with all your correct personal information.
Bottom line: Be aware of your surroundings, listen to your instincts, arm yourself with the correct visibility equipment, and have a plan in place in case something does happen. Now go out and have a safe run!