When I brought the container for old paper inside, late this evening, I asked myself the question; would I run a night trail? I see a lot of night trails lately, and a lot of ultra trails start at night. But would I like to run them?
At this moment I think I have to say no. Running in the dark doesn’t appeal to me. Running for me is sightseeing. What can I see when everything around me is black?
Look around me
Sara and I live in the countryside. If we go outside, it’s seriously dark. When it’s clouded, you don’t see a thing. If I have to get the garbage containers in, I use my phone as a torch. That gives as much light as a headlight does. Enough to see where I put my feet, not enough to look around me. So, if I can’t see a thing, what’s the fun of running in the dark?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the feeling of running. Yet, I like a little more than just that feeling. Seeing for example.
Rotterdam to Paris
I’ve run during a race in the dark. At 4 in the morning, in my first running life. I worked at Siemens Netherlands back then. We’re talking 1993 here, the year I ran the Rotterdam Marathon. A running team of Siemens was participating in the Roparun. One of the runners got injured and I was asked to step in last moment.
If you’ve never heard of the Roparun, it’s a long distance run – over 500 kilometers – from Rotterdam to Paris. Relay style. Eight runners run in turn. Each team is allowed to figure out the best way to do it. Some have their runners swap places every 3 kilometers. In our team a runner would run for 45 minutes, before he would be relieved by the next runner.
Bois de Boulogne
At 4 in the morning, when it was still pitch dark, it was my turn again. By then we were in a dark forest. Maybe Bois de Boulogne, I can’t remember. I wasn’t in charge of finding the way. We runners just had to run. As we did, a team member on a mountain bike would guide us. Reading the map, as we didn’t have neither a TomTom nor Google maps in those days, and giving us something to drink as we needed it.
And in the dark hours of the night, the mountain biker would provide us with light. Just the light of the bike and that of a head torch. Enough to see the road, the snails trampled down by the runners far ahead of us and my own feet. For the rest, we didn’t see anything.
Around us, the sounds of the forest. Rustle in the bushes, screams of birds and other animals, and the idea of wild boars in our head. Wild boars that had attacked a runner the year before. At least, that was the rumor that was going around.
I didn’t like that part of the run. I was just placing one foot in front of the other, for 45 minutes. Not seeing anything, not knowing where I was. Just running. To get to…? Yeah, to get to where? Paris. The Eiffel Tower. But if you don’t see where you are, if you don’t see where you’re going, are you really going somewhere or are you just putting one foot in front of the other?
Running towards the light
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against running in the dark. As long as I’m going towards the light. As long as I know it’s temporary. Sometimes I start my runs here at home in the dark, but within half an hour, the sun comes out. I love those moments. But those moments are different than running a full night trail.
I watched UTMB this year, together with Sara. The race around Mont Blanc, going through Switzerland, France, Italy and back. I think it’s amazing that people can run 172 kilometers. They start in the evening, run all through the night, and finish next afternoon/next evening. The fast ones at least.
Some people take 48 hours, running through 2 nights. Non-stop. But aren’t you missing out on all the beauty then? All the scenery around you? I do trail runs and for the trail and for the running part. The trail being the surrounding. Without the trail, it’s just running, and I don’t know if that’s enough for me. But maybe I should give it another try. One day. Or better, one night.