Taking on a Night Trail Run

The Inaugural Illuminator…

I stood, nervously fidgeting with my head torch, while I waited for the start of the inaugural Illuminator Night Trail Half Marathon + last year. I didn’t know what to expect, it was my first night trail race.  I had done a lot of running in the dark with my head torch and plenty rougher routes than the relatively smooth estate tracks of the Illuminator, but I hadn’t raced at night.

48illuminator2015 newIt was fantastic. A fun atmosphere and cheering spectators saw the runners and walkers head off into the darkness. A runner dressed as a Christmas tree took an early lead through the village but soon dropped back once on the first climb.

I felt great for the initial 8 miles but having not done enough long runs I began to tire by mile 10.  The ‘Light Zone’ wasn’t very light when I ran through near the front of the field, as there was a problem with the generator. But it was soon fixed and those behind enjoyed an excuse to slow or stop to look at the Scots Pine trees lit up in a stunning display of colour.

Scotland's Toughest Night Trail Half Marathon

I was hanging on for the last 5 miles, numerous men ran swiftly past me, each time I anxiously checked to make sure he was a he and not a she! I held on to the finish and was delighted to be first female. I happily made my way back into the community centre where all finishers receive a rather cool Illuminator mug which is filled with a hot drink and comes with a very well-deserved yummy snack.

I’m really looking forward to running the race again next Saturday – 22nd October 2016. With over double the number of entrants I’m expecting the atmosphere to be electric!

If you’ve signed up to the Illuminator, or one of the growing number of night trail runs out there, here are 5 key things to bear in mind, to set yourself up for a great night trail run:

1) Wear a Head Torch

Petzl newMake sure you have a good head torch and have done plenty running with it. It feels different running after dark, especially when your far from the bright lights of towns and cities.

Will Stewart (first male at last year’s Illuminator and Run4It’s Aberdeen Shop Manager) has written a great article: Running with a head torch that discusses the different head torches available from lighting brand Petzl and criteria to help you choose one that’s right for you!

2) Layer Up

Always wear or carry enough clothes to keep you warm if you have to stop. Layer up with a cosy base layers and reflective outerwear so you can be seen.

3) Go for Grip

Go for shoes with plenty of grip as the trails are likely to be muddy and slippery at this time of year. I love Inov-8 X-Talons which are super light and have teeth like studs which provide fantastic grip in tough conditions.

4) Fuel Up & Hydrate 

b054e845d866ede0f21d9c8f6bd83c56Eat well and hydrate with water during the day of the race so you have plenty energy when you get to the start line.

Depending on the length of the race make sure you have enough food and drink to keep your energy levels high. I tend to go for gels when racing, but you can take any foods you have tried on training runs and know your body will like.

5) Have a Blast!

Enjoy. Have fun and embrace the challenge of running and racing in the dark!

Give it a go…

Night races are really growing in popularity with thousands of participants enjoying the challenge of running at night. Not surprising, given it’s great fun and a great way to stay motivated and keep up your training throughout the dark winter months. Plus there’s the added bonus of burning some extra calories, so you can indulge guilt-free in some tasty winter treats.  Bring on the cake!

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Steph Provan

Steph Provan

Steph is a Mum of two who started running in 2012 having been a keen mountain biker. She enjoys hill racing and has achieved numerous wins leading to her selection to run for Scotland in the Snowdon International Race 2016 where she finished 3rd. Steph also enjoys 5ks and 10ks, mountain marathons and duathlons. She has a keen interest in all aspects of fitness and in particular sports nutrition.

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