Friday, August 26, 2011

Running in the dark

Last week I had my first night run experience. Granted it was still evening - 9pm - but it was getting dark. Part of my ultra will be at night and ever since I signed up, that part kind of scared me. It's one thing to run at night in town with street lights, cars, houses and people nearby. It's a whole different thing to do this on unlit , uneven trails with animals roaming around. So one of my running buddies offered to run with me for an hour or so, starting when it's still light and ending up in pitch black. Cool, I thought, let's do this. Time to finally try out that headlight and hand flashlight. I had made a contraption around the flashlight so when I don't need it, I can just let go and it will hang on my wrist within easy reach.

We set out and by the time we got down the first hill it was time to turn on those led babies. Yeah! Oh no, the strap around my head is too loose! With every step I took it moved down until it was over my eyes..OK tighten it up and there we go again. Poles in one hand and flashlight in the other... running dramatically slower (ok we were walking) than during the day because the play of shadows create holes where there aren't any and hides the real ones at the same time. At some point we were looking for a trail that would take us off the gravel path down a coulee. I went ahead.. What was that noise! Turning on the handheld and shining it ahead, I hear a "HEY"!! Oops, sorry! Didn't see you there. A teenage couple sitting on a bench in the dark just got 'flashlighted'. Sorry guys...looking for a trail down here. As I said that I came closer and looked at them, resulting in another blinding experience for them because all 4 leds in my headlight are shining in their eyes. "Oh shit, so sorry guys! I won't look at you" and I turn my head but as soon as the guy mumbles 'yeah whatever, it's ok' I turn towards them to offer an apologetic smile and flash them yet again. O Jesus, I am going to get beat up here pretty soon, better get out of here. Meanwhile my running buddy found the trail leading down, hallelujah! Offering one last apology to the couple (this time with my back to them) and off we went. The darkness made the ravines between the coulees look like the Grand Canyon and the farther we went down, the more humid it became. Running in the dark makes your world very small.. as big as the circle of light created by your devices... Other than the sound of your steps and rustling in bushes and weeds it's very quiet and peaceful. Wait, ack! ORGGHHHH what the!!! Of all the wildlife I was thinking of encountering at night, moths were not on my list. And yet here they are! Dozens of little grey dusty moths, stirred up by me going through their hiding spots and attracted by my head light.. fluttering around my face, in my eyes, nose and mouth. Oh yuck! I ate a few...(they don't taste very good). Hopefully they have died off in a couple of weeks with colder nights in the forecast. A rustling in the bushes behind us! Now what! Ah a coyote, OK. I can handle a coyote...if it's only one. Finally we reach a gravel path again where we can speed up a bit, Yikes! A snake coming right at me! Or no wait, a branch hanging over the path, that seemed to slither as my flashlight moved past it. Deep breath in ...I can do this. One more hill up and we are back where we started.
As I thank Tracy for bearing with me, I blind her with my light, time to turn the damn thing off! She tells me there is a 'light' etiquette for runners but I forgot what it is. It's on my 'to google' list now.

Oh and 'mister - all you need to go for a run is shoes' Please add $20 for a Buff so my head stays warm at night and the headlight doesn't give me permanent indentations on my head... just so you know.

All in all, I loved the run in the dark even though I felt like a klutz. It is very different, serene, adventurous. Tracy told me that if you keep up your nutrition and hydration during the day, the night will make you feel refreshed and awake again and that is something I will look forward to.  I run this race by myself but will likely try and stick close to a group of people at night just because alone...well is just alone.

Google light etiquette
Get spare batteries
Get Buff
The flashing light feature on the headlight does have a purpose, turn it on when you are in trouble.
Remember, snakes sleep at night!


  1. Wow, Karin! What an adventure. I felt like I could see the darkness and smell the forest around you. Great writing! Can't wait to read about more of your runs!

  2. Great post Karin! Sounds exciting and nerve racking, I can't wait to try it! When you find out what the light etiquette is, please post it!