The Ghost Run is organised by south Wales based Run Walk Crawl who organise events across south Wales including the South Wales 50 and 100 and the Brecon to Cardiff 70K in February, 2017 which I’m training for. The Ghost Run is a 5 mile trail and woodland run that starts at 7pm and promises to offer ‘Trails, Mud and Fun’. Head torches are mandatory and having never run with a head torch before I was up for the challenge.
The start line was a short walk from Aspire Fitness on Sanatorium Road and before setting off we were given a brief overview of the first section of the course and reassured that there were reflective markers and marshals throughout the course. I happened to positioned at the beginning with a friend at the front so after the countdown were were positioned in the top 3 along with another runner.
The first part of the course involved crossing a field and then joining a path alongside the River Ely towards Leckwith Woods. I was the two runners in front of me trying to keep up so when we reached a main road rather than listening to the marshal who said keep right (i.e. don’t cross but head up road) I followed the others that hadn’t heard the instructions across the road and continued along the River Ely path. After running for about half a mile and not noticing a single soul behind us we realised that that we had headed in the wrong direction and need to turn back towards the main road.
I think I was caught up in being in third position so it didn’t occur to me that we may be heading in the wrong direction. I did wonder why we would be running so far along a path rather than running through a dark, muddy wood as promised. When we reached the main road as expected we were now in last position.
Slightly up the hill on the other side of the River Ely is an entrance and climb into Leckwith Woods and it wasn’t long before we caught up with those at the end of pack. Some were already walking/slow running so we could quickly gain spaces. The early part of the wood featured the muddiest section and with little light and running fast there was no point in trying to work out whether you could avoid any of it so I just raced through it. Thankfully it was more mud than muddy puddles/water so didn’t slow you down.
I wasn’t sure what the route was before starting so didn’t know if it was a linear or circular course but soon the front of the pack were returning from wherever the turnaround point was and were heading back to the finish line. I knew there was no way of even getting close to them at this stage and I didn’t know how far I had to go until I could start heading back to the finish.
Leaving the wood I entered Trelai Park for a large loop around some of the football pitches. This was the turnaround point and after a loop I would be heading back along the same woodland path I came. Being flat and not at all muddy I could use this section to pick up some speed and gain a few more places.
Back on the woodland path I passed almost all of the slower runners so was able to utilise the full path when overtaking other runners. Most of the path was clear until I hit the initial muddy section which had become boggier.
My usual reaction to muddy sections when walking, or even when running during the daytime is to try and avoid it at all costs but when you can’t see what’s ahead of you and you’re in a race you just have to run though it and running through it at speed does help. It was actually enjoyable.
Leaving Leckwith Wood I headed back down to rejoin the same path we had headed out on. Running along this path I passed one marshal but in the back of my mind I recall that the starter had mentioned that the return journey was slightly different. I presumed this meant a different route so when I reached an arrow pointing forward beneath an underpass I continued forward even though reflective strips guided you left! I continued on towards the end of the path and realised that I was off track.
I doubled back and sprinted back to the arrow and headed down the reflective strip path. Even though I was running along the same route we had headed out onto, it appeared to be a completely different route. I guess that’s what running in the dark is like.
As a first timer running with a head torch I loved the experience. I need to get to grips with the settings on my torch to ensure I’m getting the best from it but I didn’t feel that I needed to slow down at all when using it. Just the light from the torch seems to give you that extra confidence to run a little faster than you would normally through a dark wood and when back on a tarmac trail you run at pull pace.
Race Map and Analysis
With the winner crossing the line just under 40 minutes, without my two detours I think I may have had a chance of coming in the top 10 rather than 44 and my friend would have had a very good chance of winning. However, I wasn’t too concerned with the final time and was more interested in enjoying the run.