Running in the dark

Have you EVER run trails in the dark? With a headlamp or a flashlight?

If you’re like me, you’d spend 50% of the time freaking yourself out. Remember when you went camping for the first time and you couldn’t fall asleep because it was dark and the older kids told scary stories around the campfire before bed and you hoped that you would make it through the night alive. Yeah, trail running in the dark is a little bit like that. I spent a lot of time freaking myself out and thinking “OHMYGOODNESSWHATSTHAT?” at each dark blob I saw out of the corner of my eye.

Besides the freaky, why-am-I-running-on-a-trail-in-the-dark thoughts it was a really cool experience.

I had never run trails with a headlamp before this morning. It is SO different from running under street lamps! For the first five minutes I was totally disoriented. A slight drizzle reflected off the beam and I had a hard time focusing. Then I couldn’t decide how to angle the headlamp. Pointing it out gave me the best range, but I couldn’t see what was in front of me. Pointing the beam down gave me the best chance at not tripping, but it didn’t show much beyond that.  Once I got settled on a beam setting, (down is best) it took about a mile to get used to vastly reduced range of vision -  one where rocks and divets and bushes all appeared as dark smudges bathed in greenish light (I have a green filter on my headlamp which I think I’ll change for a clear one).

The whole thing: Running in the woods, in the dark, in a little island of green light made me a little jumpy.

Soon enough, my eyes adjusted and I calmed down. I slowed my pace and started to enjoy the experience. Running in the dark… it’s just so different!  It took all my concentration to figure out if that dark thingy up ahead was a root or a rock or a shadow. Then I had to pay close attention to avoid unneccessary tripping. With the field of vision reduced, the things that I usually ignore during runs came into sharp focus. Maybe that was a result of the extra adrenaline rush I got from being so jumpy nervous about running in the dark? No matter. I felt like I expereinced the run diffrently. I was more keyed into my breath, the sounds of my feet and the rain hitting the leaves. I felt connected. It felt hardcore. It felt adventurous. Not bad ways to start a Friday morning!

The trail I ran was a familar one with a steep incline. It’s about 2 miles long and it eventually levels out onto a winding single track. In the dark all I could do was concentrate on my next two steps. The usual landmarks were hidden.  In my little circle of green light I trudged up the hill. Two steps at a time. I didn’t look up, I didn’t consider how much longer the hill went. I didn’t try to look at my watch. I just ran…two steps at a time, all the way up. When I crested the hill and joined the single track I was in a groove. I eventually turned around and by the time I joined the main trail again, the sun had risen. I finished the rest of my 8-mile run in the early dawn. The happy feeling I got from the morning run lasted all day.

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About heatherdaniel

I'm a runner, writer, eater and traveler.
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3 Responses to Running in the dark

  1. pinkcowgirl says:

    ooooooooh that sounds so amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m doing a dark trail run event in November but that will be my first dark run. I might have to attempt one before that, you make it sound so amazing!!1

  2. Ed says:

    Wow. Someone has finally answered the question “How can we make trail running harder?” Cheers!

    But seriously, that actually sounds kinda cool.

  3. Laura says:

    Wow, that sounds terrifying! This is why I’m still scared of trail running :)

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