Monday, 16 September 2013

25 things you'll learn when running long distances at night

Running at night is fun
There's something very different when you run at night as when you run in the day. Obviously that's obvious, but I'll explain a little more because I didn't think it really possible that a collection of docile cows could frighten the daylights out of me. But they did.

It's all to do with the depth and field of your vision. Unless you have a light pointing at something and that something is within range of your light source, you're just not going to see it. I missed a turning on a long night run recently, one where during the day it was utterly obvious, but at night, I was utterly oblivious. I was even looking out for it too.

And I guess that's why the cow incident occurred. See, I was busy looking into the wandering gaze of a fox partially up a hill and to my right when what I should have been doing was looking at where I was going.

Presumably sensing that I should be doing just that, looking forward, I turned and looked into perhaps 8 pairs of eyes no more than a few metres from me. A docile collection of cows during the day, but in the night a ravenous haunting multi-eyed devil silently observing its prey. The chart highlights my heart-rate spiking (the ground was completely flat). The second spike was my bladders bite valve tapping me on my shoulder and my head torch illuminating it (yes, I have the mental robustness of a 3 year old).

25 things you'll learn when running at night

  1. It really is a lot of fun
  2. It's spookier than normal and everything is really quiet
  3. You hear noises you wouldn't usually here (I heard mice in the grass squeaking)
  4. You see shapes and reflections that aren't obvious or clear and reflections of creatures eyes (hence why the Cows scared the crap out of me)
  5. Your light source creates dancing shadows in front of you and if it's cold and you breath out, you're head torch will blind you
  6. If the moon is out, even just a bit and you haven't recently blinded yourself, you can still run quite happily along smooth roads or tracks with the light off or on very low
  7. After a while (2 hours+ for me) when you look at your hands with your head torch you see the pulses of the light source and it's a bit of a trip (I could just have been really tired)
  8. The angle of the light source is really important. You want to see right in front of your feet, but you also want the main beam going out in front of you
  9. With a strong head torch, as you run others they only see a bobbing light coming towards them and no body
  10. Cars will slow down because it's not obvious what you are (or they all did for me)
  11. Cover your head torch when a car approaches and get onto the side of the road
  12. Don't use the head torch on full beam when medium or dim settings will do (save your eyes and your batteries)
  13. Some bladder bite valves are luminous and when you look over your shoulder you can get a spook by coming face to face with what your brain is telling you is a massive glowing (brain-eating) bug
  14. You're slower, but as you get used to it you speed back up
  15. Adjusting the angle of your head torch whilst it's on your head is not the same as when it's in your hand
  16. You'll forget some of the settings of your head torch and at times the lights will go out whilst you faff (just remember to slow down as ...)
  17. ... you might trip at times
  18. Familiar tracks and routes appear different. I managed to miss a turn I've taken 50 times in the daylight, but completely missed it at night - with the head torch on full!
  19. Opening up food packets is so much easier, when you look at your hands you can actually see where that last pesky Haribo bear is in the packet
  20. It's probably going to be colder than it is during the day, wear layers and bring a weather-proof jacket
  21. You can't see your legs that easily - I had to look down to make sure they were still there (I was really tired)
  22. Cobwebs. Cobwebs everywhere. Equally in between trees and flying around amongst fields
  23. Your iPhone will take crap photos, don't even bother trying
  24. There's no one around at all. Apart from apparent, and frankly committed, car park enthusiasts
  25. When it's foggy, especially around rivers and lakes, you can't see jack. The light blinds you. It feels like you're running into a snow storm or a swarm of little flies (fun and something to laugh about until it becomes eerie and you shriek like a girl when all the excitement and tension hit a crescendo)

What will I change for my next run?

Not much really. So long as I've remembered to charge my batteries and I have the right clothing and the right amount of food and water for the distance, I wouldn't change a thing.

I will however be better prepared and hopefully won't replicate the spooks of my first long distance night run.