After I posted my recent Whiteley woods blog I received a text from fellow Fareham Crusader, Mark Greenfield. The text simply said “that route has head torch written all over it”. So as we drew up and parked at around 6.30pm, with the light fading towards dusk the prospect of my first head torch run “loomed” in front of me ….. #excited.
The daylight was fast disappearing and it was too early for the moon to help so our torches lit the trail ahead. Running in the dark affects your senses in a number of different ways, firstly there’s the “balance” issue you have to get used to. Knowing where to focus the beam of your head torch, so you are confident of where you’re running, needs to be weighed up with the sense of what your feet are doing underneath you. However, concentrating on your feet “too much” leaves you open to a slap in in the face from a branch !! Yet, as long as you run with your normal rhythm it all falls into place.
The first mile was straight forward but I got too adventurous and headed down a narrow twisting track that looked fine in the daylight but got confusing in the dark. After 5 or 10 minutes of going round in circles we reappeared on the original trail. Luckily, Mark saw this as part of the entertainment and we said no more !! What I also realised is that under pressure I’m not very good with my “rights and lefts” …. something to work on 🙂
It’s also surprising how different sounds take on a new twist when you are surrounded by the dark. The crunching sound of our feet on the gravel seemed louder than normal but perhaps that was due to everything else being still and silent. The hoot of an owl could be heard through the trees but other than that it was just me and Mark shouting “tree root” or “mud” as warnings. One other sound that could be clearly heard was me swearing as we approached a fallen tree that blocked our path and meant we had to re jig our route but that’s all part of the unpredictable nature of running off road.
Your sense of smell is also heightens with the over powering “woody/pine” , “grass and ferns”, and “damp/misty” October evening fragrances. The next sense to be challenged is the perception of distance because with your guiding light not being too far ahead of you, then your normal judgement of distance is altered, but it’s surprising how quickly you adapt. A final twist was that because Mark’s head torch was a lot brighter than mine, when I was leading, my siloett seemed to be running in the light of my head torch, which was quite distracting but again part of the fun. Mark is used to head torch runs were as I was probably over cautious, however, if bramble scratched legs were the only injury I’d call that a victory. This new experience lasted about 7 miles and Mark has already mentioned a route he knows for next time.
All of these attacks on your senses made for a great run and a welcome change from pavements and street lights. One final thought, if you do take a photo, just remember there’s a bright light on your head which makes quite a difference to the picture you were hoping for !! I would recommend night running, “just go steady” and finally, don’t forget your sense of humour, it may come in handy 🙂