Last Friday (the 13th), just after midnight, I met a legend, and together we ran across a nature reserve under the light of the full moon. Really, I couldn’t make this up.
You see, last week, I was on the verge of entering a marathon in Burma. I really wish I had; it sounds totally amazing. But instead, I entered a 78 mile, 24 hour ultramarathon in good old England…
There’s so much I could – or should! – be freaking out about, but right now my main concern is the fact that my surname isn’t Forsberg or Frost. The implication of this is that I’ll have to run at least some of the distance at night. Now add to this the indisputable fact that I am a massive pansie, and we’re firmly into meltdown territory. And because this is one issue that just can’t be solved by avoidant coping or chocolate, I did the sensible thing asked for help on the internet.
My local ultramarathon running group on Facebook is a very friendly and supportive bunch, but before you declare me complete insane, I’d just like to reassure you that I do know some of the members personally. I was hoping that one of them could be persuaded to accompany me on a night run, show me the tricks of the trade and help me get my confidence up a little.
And sure enough, my plea for help was promptly answered – my rescuer a man who everyone in the group refers to only as “the legend”. I’ve never had the privilege of meeting him before myself, but virtually everyone else in the group I have run with has immediately told me all about his considerable running achievements and adventures. How could I resist learning from the very best?
On the eve of battle, however, I wasn’t sure what was freaking me out the most; the general idea of running in the dark, the thought of heading willingly into a remote forest with a strange man, or the prospects of running with someone who’s run over 100 marathons, and literally every ultramarathon I could think of and then some. Yes, including the famous Marathon de Sables. Twice.
The fact that I have returned from the midnight wilderness to write this post is an unfortunate spoiler of my unscarred survival of the night. Prior to that particular Friday the 13th, I firmly believed that night running could only ever be a miserable affair; I had braced myself for feeling tired, cold, insecure, potentially frightened and most certainly lost.
I can’t think of a time when I’ve never been so wrong about anything. Night running is amazing. Especially in lovely forests, by the light of the full moon and in the company of legends. There was a light drizzle, but the humidity felt warming and coupled with the many glimpses of lush green, gave the whole run an almost tropical feel.
We chatted freely and many giggles rung out into the night. Along the way, I had great fun skipping across the minefield or frogs that were out and about at night. We even stopped for a chocolate break at some point (confirming once again my long held belief that chocolate really does solve every problem) – I’m not sure if running gets any better than this.
The legend sure lived up to his name. He was a great guide and taught me about running in the dark, but in doing so I feel that I learned a lot about life. Once again, I experienced that most limits exist only in my mind, and that it is possible to encounter truly amazing territory if I dare to go beyond them.
On a practical note, the legend has shared an incredibly useful night running tip with me, which I’m sure he won’t mind me passing on to you. As soon as we took off, he told me that he never actually wears his head-torch on his head! Instead, he wraps the strap around his wrist and then holds the torch in his hand. I readily followed his advice, and can confirm that it worked very well for me. Using the light this way means that headaches from tight headbands are a thing of the past. It’s also much easier to look around when holding the torch in hand. Fellow runners very much appreciate this technique as well, as it ensures that they won’t constantly get blinded and losing all the night vision just because someone dared to look in their direction. And finally, I’d imagine it looks a lot cooler as well.
Do you have any thoughts on night running? Have you tried it? Do you love it as much as I do?
I’m so impressed, and I’ll admit a little jealous of your spooky full moon run! Great tip abut the torch.
Thank you – it was probably the best run I’ve had this year so far – absolutely wicked and magical! 😀
Sounds amazing! I like the ‘headlight’ tip (that’s what we call them). I do night run, night ski and night snowshoe a lot during winter months mostly because it’s pitch black up here by 5PM. Most of my fears are in my head, but when I see eyes reflecting back at me I do get scared. Night running in the summer up here would really scare me (because of the bear issues we have) and would only happen between 12:30AM and 3:30AM due to the light this time of year. Because the bears are asleep during the winter I’m not half as frightened running in the dark during winter months as I am during the summer. If were to run with a large pack of people I’d be cool with it.
I would definitely be afraid of bears as well!!! But apart from that, I agree that most of the fears are in our heads… We have little darkness here as well this time of the year, and the times you mentioned was pretty much exactly when we did the run. 😀
Sounds like an awesome experience – glad you survived!!!!! I’ve gone on a couple of night runs. Most of them were unintentional, though… as in, I couldn’t get my butt out of the door until it was late. It is pretty hard to do a track workout in the dark, though. I wouldn’t suggest it – very hard to see the numbers on your watch when the sun isn’t out, haha!
Thank you Laurel! I rarely run on the track, but could imagine that it can get tricky at night… I have done quite a few road runs on the long winter evenings we have here, but this was very different, as we headed out into the wilderness. And it was magical! 😀
I’ve done a great deal of Night Riding (on horseback) — full moon and in the complete dark! It’s amazing how much you can perceive, even in just starlight, even under the full canopy of trees. I find it a very beautiful mental place of relaxation. The memories from night rides store differently in the brain — more faded and dream-like. They remind me of ocean swimming (which I’ve also done in the dark!) — as you enter a complete other dimensional world unknown to the daylight folks. It’s a new level of trust, perception, and lore!
I like the flashlight in the hand tip. :))
Beautifully put – I couldn’t agree more. It’s like there’s a kind of magic that only awakens at night! 😀
One more thought — an endurance horse rider friend used to strap a glow stick onto his horse’s breast collar at night. He said it made a soft glow that illuminated the trail but didn’t interfere with night vision. I don’t know how that would transfer to running, but maybe one at the waist? Just a flash back to the old memory banks.
Thank you for the tip! That’s definitely worth a try – I’ll keep an eye out for glow sticks. 🙂
Sounds great! And thanks for the tip on the headstrong – I avoid using mine as it always gives me a headache!
It was a fabulous adventure of a run. The headlamp in hand deal worked wonderfully. The legends says that he’s done all his runs this way, and I suspect that it’ll be no different for me from now on. 😀
Wow this is amazing!! What a cool adventure. I’ve never run overnight before, but during the winter there were some very early mornings when it was still dark for a couple hours. I loved being out there with the moon and the stars. 🙂
Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. There’s something really wonderful about running at night, it’s so quiet and peaceful!
OH wow! This sounds absolutely crazy and FUN! I’ve never even thought of this before, but then, again, I’m super far from running an ultra marathon 🙂 Oh well, maybe one day. Keep up the great work! xoxo Olena
Thank you for your kind words! It was a very, very cool run. I am always amazed by what happens when we not only approach, but go beyond our (mental) limits and find that there’s a whole new world out there to be explored! 😀
I can only imagine!!!
This sounds amazing! I’ve love to give it a go!
You totally should! I think it’s most often our head that hold us back – once you are doing it, you might love it as much as I do!
This sounds really awesome!!!
It was! 😀 Can’t wait for part 2!
So cool! Tho to be honest, I’ve been to afraid of tripping to run a night race (except once, but it was hairy). One tip – my buddy went to the hardware store and bought an LED light for $3 that he clips to his shorts. Just as effective and much cheaper than the headlights they sell in the running stores!!!
Thank you for the tip! I definitely agree that running head torches are over-rated and over priced… They are just fancy flashlights, after all! I’ll check the hardware store and see what I find. I still love the idea of wearing it on my wrist though, it made “looking around” very easy, so would have to find something with a good strap!
It sounds like you had fun! The only top for night running I can give you is that when you are on your own never think about zombies, ghosts or monsters. Ever.
Hmmm yes, I can see how that could assume the shape of a pear rather quickly… and gee, thanks for putting that idea in my head now. 😉
My pleasure. 🙂
What an amazing experience. I have to admit, I have never gone night running. I would be terrified of the critters out on the trails or the creepers out on the roads. The trick of holding the lamp is awesome. Maybe i would actually take my headlamp with me in the early winter mornings if I did that!
You should try it! I thought I’d be scared too, but I absolutely loved it. Perhaps ask a friend to go out with you, it’s much easier to be brave when you have backup! 😀
Lovely blog . Night running is fun. Hopefully go for one soon 🙂
We should! Not long now until you are back! 😉