When I signed up for the Wild Night Run it felt like a great idea but as the event got nearer I become more scared about what I had let myself in for! I had never done a trail race or in fact a night race before which also raised the apprehension in my head but I decided just to man up and get going!
The pre race information was good but the strava link showing the route and elevation did fill me with fear but I knew that 6 miles in and it would be mainly down hill, how wrong was I! The information warned of parking issues as the race starts in a small Dartmoor village just off the A38, arriving 2 hours before the start and it was already becoming a struggle to find space. luckily being a night race most businesses were closed allowing for extra spaces. I decided to leave my gear and register and headed to race HQ, the village hall. Walking through the door of the village hall I was greeted by the sound of a band playing live music and 50 trail runners stood around chatting and drinking coffee. The staff were friendly and I begun to feel at ease. The race was being put back 20 minutes to allow the 5 milers to experience darkness so I had plenty of time to get my kit ready and decide if I had enough layers on.
With backpack, water, waterproof and head torch at the ready I joined the rest of the group at the start line. The mood was friendly and talking to others I didn’t feel such a fish out of water. The race was started by the author of ‘running with the Kenyans’ Adharanand Finn by banging a tin plate with a wooden spoon and we were off. Starting with a little on tarmac before we were off through a field, over a few styles. The race had a very hilly feel from the start with the first bit of trail feeling almost vertical but with the aid of the other runners you kept going.
It was a true Fell style run with river crossings and a mix of trail, road and track within the first few kilometers but as we continued to head upwards the trails became rougher and more technical, head torch switched to full beam as you needed to pick your route. We hit a split point were the 5 milers went right and we headed left and this was where the fun began as we headed up onto true Dartmoor terrain. After a short main road section we began to steeply climb up a fire road next to the river. the sound of the river was amazing and as the field spread out a little you began to feel alone in the dark. We all took a wrong turn up a steep tarmac road before the front runners came back down telling us they too had made a mistake, luckily for me I had only climbed 200 meters off to the others.
We headed through a gate and began the tough climb up to the top on muddy, grassy, rocky paths. As the race field spread out even more by the sudden increase in gradient you had to pick out the route by glow in the dark ski poles that the organizers had had imported in for the race. This was when I was glad to have a good head torch as you needed to be able to see what was under you feet and coming up! Apart from the odd glimpse of a reflective jacket or head torch you really felt alone, this for me was the special part of the race. as you reached the summit of the main peak you began to take in the view, and what a view. With the glow of distant villages and a long row of head torch’s bobbing down in front you felt like you wanted to stop and take it all in, but there was no time.
The ascent was steep and technical but the descent was harder. With deep bogs, rocks and no real path you had to choose your own route from ski pole to ski pole. It began to drizzle but this just added to the feel of being out. We continued to undulate up and down on grassy trail making sure to keep you feet on the ups and downs. After a long up we hit a road and the gradient dropped away below us, I recalled from memory that it was down hill from here and let my legs run away from me only to find that there was 1 last bite in the races tail. A very thin muddy trail with a sharp gradient to really zap any energy your legs was left. on the other side was the most technical descent on tired legs, I kept my feet but I heard several struggled. As I headed out the bottom on to a small stretch of road I could begin to see the lights of South Brent Village and knew I was nearly home. A sharp left, over a style and down some granite steps and the final bit of trail followed the river back to the village hall. Then just to finish your legs off was a short sharp hill to get back on the road before hitting the finish line.
Once getting my breath back and congratulating the runners who finished around me I took my now very muddy trainers off and went into the hall. The band were playing once again and people were stood around eating local homemade stew and eating chocolate cake. I joined the queue for a rub down as my legs needed it. 2 Sports masseurs were on hand to ease weary legs and they were very busy! I enjoyed some stew, picked up my race T shirt and headed home.
As a runner we have several races that we want to ‘tick off’ and to be honest I would say a night race is a must! The Wild Night Run crew we very organized and made the event fun, safe and a real friendly affair. It felt far more friendly than most road races I had raced. It was very hard and really tested both you body and mind as I can honestly say some of the hills would have been scary in the light but the sense of achievement after was huge. I did learn that walking was a must at times either because of the terrain or the gradient!
I would strongly recommend this to anyone, it was truly an amazing experience. It brings a whole new experience to running.