Tuesday, January 24, 2012

lighting the darkness

I started running again a little over a year ago. Before that I had not run more than a few feet at a time since a single track season midway through college. It was a long hiatus.

Running is very different as an "old" man. Back in the day, I didn’t have all the responsibilities I have now. I wasn’t a husband. I wasn’t a father of three. I didn’t have a full-time job. Spending time with my family and tending to my duties at work make running during the daylight hours nearly impossible for me. About the only time I run when the sun is up is when my wife wants to go out for a short run after work. Otherwise, the only time I have for working out is the hour or so before 6:30 in the morning. That means the majority of my running is done pre-dawn.

Taking to the streets as a pedestrian during the darkest hours requires a thought or two about safety. I wear a screaming yellow jacket and bright orange shoes. There is reflective material all over both. I want every driver to notice me as they pass by.

Last winter I started using an inexpensive headlamp to help me see the minor obstacles along my route and to increase my visibility. This light allowed me to run through darker sections of town away from the streetlights without fear of twisting an ankle in the potholes that dotted the lesser-traveled ways.

A few weeks back, I got my hands on a fairly new product that I believed could aid further in my safety before sunrise. My KnuckleLights arrived less than a week after I received word of their shipment. They were carefully packed in a box with plenty of padding to keep them from being damaged. I opened the plastic casing around my blue pair and proceeded to get them ready for use the next morning. Knuckle Lights come in a variety of colors, so don’t worry if you don’t like blue. The rubber straps that my fingers were to slip through were easy enough to adjust, but I had to find a screwdriver to get the battery compartment open so I could put the two AAA batteries into each of them. I just could not get the door open with my bare fingers.

Once their power source was in place, I took them for a spin around the neighborhood. The brightness of a full moon during that first outing made it hard to judge the effectiveness of the Knuckle Lights. Only when I ran through shadowy spots could I get a feel for the product’s usefulness. The beams are wide, but not quite as long as I expected. I’d guess that they helped illuminate 8 to 12 feet in front of me. The bright bluish light was, as advertised, fairly steady in the middle where the two beams intersected. It was kind of strange to watch the wiggling shadows to the side, but that made no difference where it really mattered. I ran for nearly an hour and was able to clearly see the holes and irregularities in the road surface.

I tested the lights again a few days later. The moon was less of a factor since it had waned a bit. The Knuckle Lights did an adequate job of lighting things up. I was able to avoid some low hanging branches as I ran along a sidewalk. The Knuckle Lights did an excellent job of lighting up the curb I tripped over too. I saw it. I looked at it. I caught my toe on it. I guess I shouldn’t expect a product to make up for my clumsiness.

The next morning, during my third outing with the Knuckle Lights, I focused on some of the other qualities of the product. I was convinced that they illumined my path adequately, but I hadn’t given much thought to their feel in my hand or their weight or anything else for that matter. I ran hill intervals this morning and the rubber straps kept the lights firmly in place even with the exaggerated arm swings during sprints. With heavier gloves on to fight the cold, I could only fit two or three fingers through the straps. Still the lights were secure. When my arms were hanging limp after my cool down, the Knuckle Lights didn’t fall off my hands. I didn’t have to hang onto them at all. The switches on top of each unit were easy enough to push on or off.

I ran with the Knuckle Lights several more times over the course of eleven days. I experimented one day with a combination of the two handheld lights and my old headlamp. I ran with only the Knuckle Lights and only the headlight during that run also. The three together gave the best light, of course, but the Knuckle Lights alone clearly outclassed the headlamp by itself. The light cast from the Knuckle Lights was brighter and wider.

My wife also ran with the Knuckle Lights one evening at dusk. Though they didn’t light up her path discernibly in the light of the ebbing sun, she said they made her feel more visible and safe when traffic approached.

Toward the end of my test period, I began to notice that the Knuckle Lights were a bit dimmer by run’s end than they were when first lighted. Could have been the cold affecting my eyesight I suppose, but more likely the enclosed AAAs were beginning to lose power after hours of use.

GIVEAWAY: I’m giving away a pair of brand new Knuckle Lights. They’re blue just like mine. Want to win them? Comment on this post before I get up to run at 5:00am on February 1. Get a second entry by tweeting a link to this review. Be sure to add my Twitter handle, @openmikey, to the tweet so I’ll see it. If you add @knucklelights to it also, I’m sure the folks at Knuckle Lights who helped make this giveaway possible would be appreciative. Another way to gain a second entry - two is the limit on entries in the drawing - you may comment on my dailymile post. The odds of winning will be determined by the number of entries received. (Drawing open to US residents only. Sorry.)
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