I've run at night before. I've run trail before. I've not done both at the same time. I always thought it was dangerous. I assumed the worst would happen. What if I fell and seriously hurt myself? What if some nut tried to attack me? What if there was a bear!? Then I got to thinking. I am going to have to do this eventually. After all, I signed up for the American Odyssey Relay Race in May and there are trails that will have to be run in the dark!
So after a slow day at work and a mix up in running plans, I decided to take a chance. I grabbed two head lamps, a pocket knife, and my iPod, then made my way to the trail. It was deserted, but I wasn't surprised. I can't remember anyone ever saying that they enjoyed taking a stroll on the trail after sunset. I would have rather it be empty anyway. Having someone come up on me or vice versa may have increased my panic (Are they a murderer? Are they going to attack me?).
Once I started running, my fear faded. I thought "This isn't so bad! I've got this!" It wasn't until about a half mile in that my fear slowly returned. I was surrounded by trees on both sides. All the nearby homes were far behind me. The trail suddenly appeared darker than it was before. My head lamp provided decent light, but I was having a difficult time adjusting to only seeing 10 feet in front of me. At times, I had a hard time seeing if I were on the trail or veering off to the right of it. A trail I've run hundreds of times was suddenly a stranger to me.
About a mile and a half in, paranoia settled in. First, my heart began to race because I could hear music that was not coming from my iPod. I soon realized it was coming from my cell phone. By the way, my phone's ring tone is the Ghost House theme from Super Mario Bros. Not exactly the most comforting tune you want to hear on a dark trail by yourself.
The deeper I got into the woods, the more I worried about my own well-being. I ran faster, but kept a sharp eye for any objects I could have tripped over. Eventually, I felt it was in my best interest that I turned around, sacrificing a mile. I didn't see any harm in cutting back since my adrenaline was pumping. But I thankfully made it back alive (obviously) with a strange appreciation for the fear I felt. It was...thrilling.
Though I accepted the challenge and was okay with trail running at night, I will NEVER do it again alone. One, I think my mom would kill me if she found out (I love how much she cares! :o]). Two, I don't think my heart can handle that much adrenaline pumping through it in a 30 minute run. I will make sure Peter joins me next time. As long as he is okay with joining. Otherwise, it's the roads for me!
I thought my experience was worth sharing as many of you may be curious to try trail running at night. I definitely think you should try it if it sparks your interest, but I would highly recommend the following:
- Bring a headlamp or flashlight...or two. You may think a single flashlight may offer enough light, but I was extremely surprised at how difficult it was to see with just my headlamp alone. Thankfully, I had two.
- Bring protection. Pepper spray, a pocket knife, etc. You never know who or what may be lurking around a dark corner. Be safe!
- Have a cell phone. If you injure yourself, having the ability to call for help in a deserted area is important!
- Tell someone where you are and how long you plan to be! If you aren't back by the time you have indicated, someone knows to come looking for you!