Mr Sparkle’s Dark ‘Un

Much like riding my bike at night, running in the dark is pretty normal for me. With very little opportunities for getting out in daylight, most of my exercise is done with the aid of lights – handlebar, helmet or head mounted. When Simon told me he was going to organise a night-time fell race, I knew it was going to be my kind of an event.

The weather could not have been any better. Under a completely clear sky, 60 or so runners lined up on a bridleway at the foot of a seemingly never-ending climb (mainly because nobody could see the top) somewhere near Darwen. Waiting for Simon to start the race, I looked around and gave myself a pat on the back for wearing full-length running tights and long sleeves – the lads who were wearing vests and shorts were starting to shiver in the not-quite-freezing-but-not-far-off temperatures. They’d soon warm up once we got on our way.

Some were wearing headtorches – some were expensive and very bright, some weren’t very bright at all. At least one runner was wearing his cycling helmet with a lamp attached, complete with battery stuffed in a rucksack. Most were ‘doing this sort of thing’ for the first time ever.

Simon’s novelty megaphone played a little ditty to signal the start and we were off. As usual, quite a few runners went off like a shot while I did my usual routine of spending the first mile or so warming up and waiting for my lungs to get used to the sudden rush of cold air. The route climbed up the rocky and often muddy track from Tockholes for two or three miles to the top of Darwen Moor where the mud and lack of drainage gave the race a whole new set of challenges – namely, how to spot the deep puddles, how to find a path around or over them in the darkness and how many leaps of faith you were prepared to take in order to take the most direct route.

I did ok, considering. Only stepping into thigh-deep bogs on two occasions I made up a few places. I was doing pretty well in fact – my experience of running offroad at night was paying off.

A quick hello to Will who was marshalling at the top of the moor, the route then started to descend. Normally, this is where I get my arsed kicked in a fell race. Often I’m a nervous descender, the result of a few too many ankle sprains in the past. In fact, shortly after beginning my descent I went over on my ankle – not quite a sprain and not quite enough to make me stop running but painful enough for me to let out a girly squeak.

Instead of getting my arse kicked though, many others in the race were evidently adjusting their speed downhill due to the darkness and nobody went past me for the full length of the rocky track back to the finish line.

pic: Sportsunday

I finished in a quite-good-for-me 18th place, almost 10 minutes behind the winner but a satisfying result all the same. More night time fell races please!

After some finish line banter, everyone was treated to free chip butties at the Royal Hotel in Tockholes, Simon held the presentation in the beer garden and everyone quite rightly thanked him for pulling this brilliant event together. It’ll be bigger next year – make sure you do it.