Winter is great… for night running

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Instead of bemoaning the shorter days and dark evenings, why not take the opportunity to try a new outdoors activity? Fiona Outdoors reports.

With clouds covering the moon, the sky looks very black and I feel a sharp chill in the, thankfully, light winds. In front of me I can see the wet stones of the forest trail glistening in the light of my bright head torch.

The woodlands around me are eerily quiet, except for the occasional whisper of the wind in the high, bare branches and the rush of a high, water-filled stream as I run by.

My senses seem heightened. I can clearly see the halo of my own breath in the night air and hear the strangely loud sound of my feet as they pad along on the hard track.

This is night running, and since discovering the wonders of this winter activity I have been hooked.

It seems I am not alone. I recently took part in the first in a series of winter night runs, organised by the Carnethy Hill Running Club in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, where record numbers of competitors turned out.

Expectations are high that even more people will compete in the next two Trossachs Night Trail events, in January and March.

There are other popular night-time running events, too, in Scotland, including the Mighty Deerstalker, and a few mid-week evening hill races are gaining greater numbers.

If night running appeals to you, let us guide you through the basics.

How to run at night

While running during the night or in the day is very similar, you do require one vital item of kit, a good headtorch. The best type is one that is small and neat and has a high quality lumen beam.

I use two Silva head torches. See more in our Silva headtorch review. Although pricey, they produce a fantastic beam of light and do not feel heavy when strapped on to my forehead.

NightRunning

Additional kit includes a hat, gloves, running tights, long-sleeved running tops or baselayers and, perhaps, a windproof or showerproof running jacket depending on the weather.

If you are running off-road it’s a good idea to choose footwear with good traction and to suit the type of terrain that you plan to run.

Safety is another consideration. If you are going off the beaten track you would be wise to run with a friend or make sure you have a form of communication with you should you end up lost of injured. Carry a map and compass in more remote areas.

You could decide to run at night on streets, using street lights as guidance, but this takes away a lot of the fun of night running on trails.

The joys of running at night

You might already be very familiar with an off-road running route yet at night it seems completely different.

Lit only by the beam of your headtorch you are treated to a narrower view of your surroundings but it is one that feels magical and mystical.

Occasional glimpses of what might be there, through nearby trees and along paths and trails, adds excitement to a normally ordinary route.

When running in a race it is also entertaining to see the bobbing line of lights ahead and behind as you run between faster and slower competitors.

In the Trossachs Trail Night Race I followed a man wearing clothing with reflective features that made him look like a skeleton from behind. This amused me for miles as I tried to keep up with him.

During the Mighty Deerstalker race in the Scottish Borders, the procession of lights on a hill climb after dark was truly spectacular and is a long-lasting night-time memory.

I also love watching my whippet as she runs with me at night. Her eyes shine in the light of my torch and twinkle back at me in the black air.

Running at night also allows you to relax and forget about the wider surroundings. I find this helps me to keep a more even pace.

My mind is also less cluttered. I am mindful of the here and now, rather than the route ahead or the road behind.

Night running is like being in your own surreal bubble and instead of becoming grumpy about a winter of darkness and cold, I look forward to the first night when I can truly enjoy a pitch-black run by aid of my headtorch.

Go on, give night running a try and tell us how you get on.



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