Ever since my first night run on the Ghost Run in October, I’ve been attracted to the idea of running in the dark. The darkness adds another dimension to the running and you become more alert and more aware of your surroundings, even though you can’t see much.
I’d always wondered how ultra runners coped with longer races that involved running through the night especially where there was tricky terrain to tackle. I’m sure you’d have to slow down on tricky descents but so far I’ve found that I can maintain a decent pace and as long as your head torch illuminates a good enough area in front of you don’t have to slow down much.
There are a few different spots in Wentwood to park when running or walking but I’ve found the car park at Cadira Beeches on the north of the forest to be spacious and easy enough to find, even at night. Having run and walked through the woods in the past I was confident that I would be able to navigate my way around the main tracks. As a backup I have the excellent OSMaps app on the iPhone which has my route and maps already downloaded. I plotted out a route that was about 15km but depending on how much time I had I could easily shorten it by selecting one of the different tracks back to Cadira Beeches.
The route heads out of Cadira along the track towards The Five Paths which serves as a crossroads to different parts of the forest. Instead of following this path I took an immediate left and down another track. At the bottom there you can double back on yourself up through a small woodland trail back to the car park. I found doing this little loop useful in getting comfortable being out in the dark.
Once back at Cadira followed the same track but instead of turning back took a right on a track that leads a different way to The Five Paths. The second time along this path I both startled, and was startled, by a deer running across the track. It paused briefly before disappearing into the trees.
This wide track winds through the forest and is good for keeping a good pace. Along this stretch I started to see various wildlife with a rabbit (I think) crossing the track, followed by a pair of eyes glowing in the tree which looked like another deer. A further pair of eye on the crest of the ascent up the track proved to be something smaller (a fox perhaps).
The Five Paths
At The Five Paths I had the option of following, and committing to, my original route or heading back to Cadira and cutting it short at 4 miles. Running out of time I decided to head back along the track to the car.
Should You Run in the Woods at Night?
That depends, if you’re up for experimenting with different types of running then sure, although probably best to go with someone. If you’re easily spooked by eyes in the woods then probably not.
With some night races coming up over the winter I wanted to get used to running with a head torch and with it being dark after work I wanted to experiment with different runs rather than purely running on roads.