In this day and age, it goes without saying that the majority of the South African population would rather be tucked in under a blanket and in front of a screen than out in the middle of nowhere, navigating through the dark and surrounded by nearly 200 sweating strangers. In the trail running community, nothing sounds better. I hadn’t been to any night trail runs before; it was just something that seemed a little more intimidating to me as opposed to running on a sunlit ridge in the middle of the day.
I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed this type of thing, don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the trails… but the vicious little bite in the night air and the scattered cloudy skies lacing the full moon left a good runway of spiked hairs down my spine.
The evening started out as every other trail run normally did; standing in the registration line and awkwardly trying not to stand too close to somebody, trying to be as friendly as possible for paying late, dreading the sticky patch on the paper wrist band getting caught on my arm hairs and panicking about when to start my watch while the announcer was giving the final briefing.
The game changer for me was that only when the sun had actually set, the time had finally come to get going. In an instant, 200 anxious trail runners set out on a 10km moonlit adventure.
Bouncing headlamps instantly through off my orientation and the dark on either side was a constant taunt.
Every so often I was startled by some or other noise in the bushes, that’s origins still remain unknown, and every step broken over some leaves or twigs made me jump as if I had stepped on a drawing pin. You could call this the intro to the race and the first steps in my night running career... or for some, otherwise referred to as the start of a great comedy show.
It took some time and a few unsettling kilometres, but eventually I started easing into the idea of this whole “night running” concept. It became an entirely new environment to experience the trails. I began to enjoy the solitude and connect with my breathing and technique without any distractions, I caught glimpses of the moon still staring at me through the shredded clouds and watching my headlight unfold a new patch of trail under my feet was almost as if I was chasing an untold story.
After a while, I didn’t actually take notice of how much that once shredded sky had stitched itself up. I could no longer spot a star in the sky and the moon had been misplaced at some point too.
Eight kilometres into the run and I was starting to panic that someone stole the sky along with my composer and orientation. The heavens then spat on my face and my fear of the dark started getting wet. Apparently, this was the part of the race briefing that was replaced with me playing with my watch and heart rate monitor concerns - a rain warning.
Naturally, my steady pace turned into a panicked sprint. However, due to tired legs and the gaping chasms in my chest demanding oxygen, there was no chance of that sprint lasting very long. I had to just accept I was now stuck in the wet dark and the only way to get out of this was to keep pushing steady till I was at the finish. I kept my head down and refocused.
Soon enough, I was passing over the finish line and I must confess to something… I have never felt more accomplished after a run in my life.
In a space of 10km, I had faced my fear, learned to love total isolation, kept myself strong under some horrid conditions, I tried something I was scared of and most of all, I actually had fun.
Yes, it’s true that in this day and age majority of the South African population would rather be tucked up safe and sound, but it’s also true that the minority have the most fun…
Where would you rather be?