The Rogue Runs series of night races were some of my first night races in 2016 and after the first one I was hooked. There was such an excitement about running through the woods at night lit by headtorch. You needed to focus intensely both on your feet and the route ahead and a lapse in concentration could mean slipping, tripping or taking a dip in a mud bath.
Last year I was the only Parc Bryn Bach RC member to run the races but this year I’d recruited enough for at least a male and female team on each race.
Race 1: Mallard’s Pike
The first in the series, Mallard’s Pike is located deep in the Forest of Dean where wild boar roam. During the race briefing runners are always warned that the wild boar are attracted to the smell of a sweaty runner but to date everyone has made it back to the post-race cake stand safely.
Last year’s route featured a steep, single-file climb have the initial lap of Mallard’s Pike pond and if you had started too far back you would have little opportunity to pass anyone until you reached the top of the climb. Thankfully the route had changed this year but it did mean a section on road and harder track before hitting the trail proper.
The tough route wound its way anti-clockwise around the forest and featured sections of mud, steep climbs and some fast descents. Prior to the race I was warning people about a deep water feature that you had to wade through in last half mile of the race so I was anticpating it but around 4 miles in the route went in a different direction and through a much smaller water feature. Heading this way did mean that you followed a faster track which resulted in me recording a faster time than last year despite being slightly further.
Race 2: Beechenhurst
Ah, Beechenhurst, I’ve got a score to settle with you!
Last year this was the last race in the series and unbeknownst to me it featured an unavoidable mudbath. They did erect a sign warning runners of the ankle-deep hazard but it’s so wide that you have no choice but to wade through.
With only single knots in my laces it was not going to be a fair battle and no sooner had I stepped into in the quagmire it claimed one of my shoes. It took a few strides before I was able to stop and return to claim my shoe. I squeezed my muddied foot back into the shoe and rejoined the race.
This route is perhaps the toughest out of the trio with the usual hills, obstacles and mud but with extra mud and the mud bath sap the energy out of your legs. Apart from one slight variation in the route it was the same as last year and much like Mallard’s Pike I was warning people about the deep water feature towards the end of the course.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the water feature was no more due to a new bridge being built which meant avoiding the water but not avoiding the slippery muddy bank on the other side which just further sapped the energy out of your legs.
And to cap the race off, a final obstacle involved crossing a wide ditch which had been filled with smoke. Unfortunately, one of my club’s runners lost valuable places when fell.
Race 3: Piercefield Park
The final race in the series and after the disappointment of a smaller water feature in the first race, no water feature in the second race, this race was to feature not one, but two knee-deep water crossings.
Based at Chepstow Racecourse, the route heads through a wooded section and into the open of Piercefield Park. Reaching the Wye Valley Walk section, the route become a little tricky with lots of obstacles to avoid and a path that’s on a slope (watch out for that big drop down into the River Wye!)
Giant’s Cave follows along with a scramble up a steep slope and then back out into the open and alongside the racecourse towards Piercefield Park. The open sections are very reminiscent of a cross country race, just at night.
Approaching Piercefield Park again, I remembered the water feature but I can’t recall going through an additional one before you reach it! It caught me off guard but was prepared for the second one so ran straight through it gaining a couple of places.
A fast downhill section across PIercefield Park followed the water crossing which led back into the woods and the Wye Valley Walk. Whereas the first section on the Wye Valley Walk was a lot more congested which only increased the difficulty in picking up any speed, the field had thinned out by this point which meant I didn’t have anybody in front of me so could focus further ahead.
By this point in the race I was expected to have already encountered Tosh the photographer especially as he was positioned at the second water crossing last year. Around 4-and-a-half miles I had a call of “you’re going the wrong way!”. It was Tosh informing that I had missed the turning but luckily I hadn’t overshot it by much so retraced my steps for my photograph and the last uphill section to the finish.
I was a couple of minutes slower than last year but still enjoyed the finale to the Rogue Run Night Race Series and as a bonus the ladies from our club bagged 1st Team Prize – a great achievement considering the first two races were dominated by Forest of Dean AC.