VALPARAISO | They only come out after dark or before dark gives way to dawn.
They're ardent runners with day jobs after the clocks have been turned back.
"Most of us run year-round," veteran distance runner and coach Sue Brown-Nickerson said, "and this is the time of year when you need to make yourself seen."
Brown-Nickerson was leading one of two training runs offered by Extra Mile Fitness Company in preparation for the Valpo Half Marathon held on Sunday, and the Valpo Turkey Trot 5K set for Thanksgiving morning (Nov. 28).
Adorned with blinking lights, head lamps and white-bright reflective strips, shoes and laces, the training group looked as if they set the calender back a week to Halloween and were costumed as a platoon of space invaders.
Being ostentatious is the whole point.
"Every nine seconds a runner somewhere in the country gets hit by an automobile," Heather Henderlong said. "Runners, especially around here, are very close-knit. You see us supporting each other at all these local races, and naturally we don't want to see any one of us get hurt."
Heather and husband, Todd Henderlong, opened Extra Mile in Valparaiso about a year and a half ago. Their other company, T and H Timing, is a road race timing service that also assists in setting up races.
In conjunction with the Independent Running Retailers Association and Lace Up Local, Extra Mile is promoting "National Running Safety Month" going on through November.
One NRSM event held the first weeknight (Nov. 4) of the new time standard was the Get Lit Fun Run that concluded with a post-run gathering at Ironwood Brewing Company.
"And we brought in sandwiches from Firehouse Subs," Henderlong said. "We try to keep it local when supporting businesses."
In addition to the lights and wearing green, yellow, orange and bright pink-based apparel enhanced with "reflective hit" innovation, being safe on the move takes some common — or even uncommon — sense.
"When people are about to make a right-hand turn in their car, often they just look to the left for an opening," Henderlong said. "If you're a runner coming up to such a car (from the right), the driver may not turn his head to see you before pulling out.
"That's why we're stressing for runners to be more defensive, and for drivers to be more aware."
NRSM tips for running after dark and during inclement weather include the need for increased visibility; letting someone know where you're going beforehand; carrying identification, a cell phone and emergency cash; running with a partner or group whenever possible; switching routes to thwart would-be assailants and stalkers; heightened awareness while crossing streets and approaching vehicles; and keeping your ear canals open.
"I don't like running with earphones or ear pieces, especially when it's dark," Henderlong said. "Many people love to exercise and run to music, and that may be good inside a gym, but if you're running outdoors, you should at least turn one of your ear pieces off or lower the music to where you can hear what's around you."
Henderlong has another piece of advice.
"Cotton is rotten," she said. "You may think you've layered yourself well enough to run in the cold, but if you have a cotton T-shirt underneath it all, just like when you cut the lawn in the summer, it's going to be soaked with sweat."
Synthetic fiber wear is a better way to keep a chilled sweat off the body, Henderlong said.