Sunday, 14 December 2014

In the Forest Dark and Deep - Night running in Delamere Forest

Walking into a forest, alone in the dark (and I mean DARK) is probably not the wisest way to spend your Saturday evening, but last night I found myself doing just that. My running buddy was struck down by the lurgy so it was left for me to run the 10k in the dark for us both, armed with only my head torch and some (not so) speedy legs.
A solitary beam to light my way

When I got to race HQ though I realised I needn't have worried. The choir were singing, stalls were set out and volunteers and runners were lit up like Christmas trees. Literally, lots were wearing Christmas lights while running to light the way. But it was still very dark.

So how was it? 

We've all been out running at night time. If you run, you have inevitably run around your home town after 3pm in the winter, but this is not urban night running. There are no lights nearby and running with only your head torch to light the way is really disorientating. It's a totally different run to that in the daytime. Everything feels closed in, almost claustrophobic, yet freeing at the same time.
Even getting to the start was disorienting as without the ability to see the whole of your surroundings, navigating your way is difficult. You rely much more on your other senses. I noticed mid run that I was gauging the footings ahead from the sound of the feet from the runners in front. Splash splosh - a puddle was coming up. Thud thud - we were on a trail. Squelch....squelch....well, we were stuck in the mud. At some point you learn to just go with it and it's almost as if you're running in a bubble, putting your trust in only your body and trusting your feet to carry you over the unknown. It's liberating.

The first half was brilliant. Steady solid trails galore and lots of people to help light the way. I felt steady and adventurous. Somewhere after halfway there came a big hill, which was difficult and really spread the runners out. There were times now where it was only my light ahead of me. The second half is where it got REALLY muddy too, like a bog. I almost lost a shoe to the course on more than one occasion. What I also learnt it that mud is very slippery - think Bambi on the ice, but in more lycra and less graceful. I was, however, the idiot wearing road shoes and I suspect this is where trail shoes come in handy. Silly urban road runner. I consider remaining upright on this course and not getting to the finish with my arse caked in mud one of my greatest achievements.  


This slip sliding all over the show knocked my confidence a bit. I started to doubt my footing and became really cautious, which I was glad of in a way. Especially on the descent of the biggest hill. I'm not sure what was worse, the almighty steepness going up, or going down at speed with gay abandon unable to see how far your feet would land. Some of the runners were reckless, bounding around really tight corners in the mud and tripping over huge branches. I was glad to be going a bit slower! But people were also friendly. The darkness made everyone huddle together a bit more and people looked out for each other on the course, while the start line was one if the chattiest I'd been at. There was a sense of camaraderie as we embarked on what one girl at the start described as 'the stupidest thing we've ever done.'

There is something really quite magical about running in the cold dark night, seeing the forest trees silhouetted against the star strewn sky, knowing that this is a unique experience. It was a complete adventure, mystifying, scary, magical and liberating. I can highly recommend it and am already thinking about another - but with trail shoes.

Oh, and I also recommend running events in December - mince pies at the finish line seem to be almost mandatory which I believe to be an added bonus.

I'll leave you with the words of Robert Frost, which sum up the race quite perfectly:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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  1. I'd be gutted if my trainers came back that filthy!! :) x

    1. Haha I was glad I had the foresight to wear my oldies :)