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Running at night is great fun

by Robert Britton
Wednesday 2nd July 2014
Tags  Robbie Britton   |   inov-8   |   Team Centurion   |   Petzl Tikka RXP

Run247 columnist Robert Britton, member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad, Team Inov-8 and Team Centurion, gives some useful advice on running with a head torch

Ever worried about running at night and bumping into some nutter in the woods in the pitch black? If you're an ultra runner then don't worry, you'll be fine. The chances of there being two suitably unhinged individuals in the woods at the same time are slim to none, you've filled the quota yourself.

Running at night is sometimes seen as a daunting task, especially on the trails, but it needn't be and there are several ways to make sure that the night section of your race or run is as enjoyable as running through freshly cut grassy fields on a Summer's day. Unless you have hayfever, whereas you'll have to fit in your own idyllic running scenario.

Now, I hear you say, the middle of summer isn't really the best time to be writing about night running as we have so little of it, but it does seem that a lot of overnight races (100 milers, 24hr races and night events) do seem to crop up at this time and I've been asked a few questions about this recently.

The first thing you need is a good head torch

I use the Petzl Tikka RXP as my main light and have the diddy E-Lite as a back up as the RXP is right bright, comfy on your noggin and relatively light weight. Those looking to save as much as weight as possible should look elsewhere I reckon, as no matter how light your kit is, if you're tripping over rocks and roots every five seconds then you're not going to be rapid. I know because I've tried it and smashed myself to pieces bouncing along the North Downs Way at night thinking of how happy I am that I've gone lightweight on the torch. 

Second is to get out and practice with that badger, which again is harder than you think at this time of year! The wonderfully light evenings make for great running, but if you're trying to practice for a 100 miler you can either try and race the Sun (good fun, but she's quick), or find the thickest woods you can and lose a bit of sleep getting on the trails after dark. Or run with your head torch on and your eyes closed at noon. That'll work right?

Look up!

Although you really want to worry about the "Careful Wet floor" sign and trip hazards in your immediate vicinity, your head is miles (well, a couple of feet) ahead and you want to be looking and processing the trails ahead of you. Plus you can see low hanging branches and practice your running limbo technique.

Eat plenty of carrots. Not because they will help you see in the dark but because they're healthy and then you can run quicker.

If you're racing then make sure you remember to turn off your head torch in checkpoints, rather than blinding the pleasant, helpful people waiting to cheer you on in the middle of the night. Otherwise you'll be left wondering why nobody seemed to like you and start imagining you're a bit uglier when you're running, when really you look lovely when you're covered in snot, rice pudding and tears.

Remember that in a cloud your light will just reflect back into your eyes. And in snow, rain etc. The Petzl head torches have reflective lighting, which saves the battery when it can and it's great when you go past street lights etc too and dims down! Careful running past reflective signs on country lanes as this can dim the light when you need it bright!

Don't forget to take your head torch off when it gets light

At the West Highland Way I carried my torch, on my head, for about 15 miles more than I needed to because I forgot to chuck it to my crew when the sun came up. This probably cost me about 27 minutes... Just saying Paul.

So even though it's summer time and we have more sunshine than ever, you still need a little help now and again. Now duct tape that 5,000,000 candle torch to your forehead and get down to your local Quasar to practice running in the dark or, if Quasar has actually gone bust, close all your curtains, tip over a few household objects and start sprinting about your front room.

Running at night is great fun and there's no reason to lose time at this point, especially in Summer when the temperature actually suits a nocturnal burst before the blowtorch in the sky saps all your strength!

Let us know if you've got any tips or stories about running at night, especially if you' pace raced a badger like Paul Navesey and Gary Dalton. Adrenaline junkies.

Now play safe and race hard.

For a random chance to win some Petzl Goodies tweet your best night running pictures to @ultrabritton & UK Petzl distributor @lyonequipment


About The Author

Robert Britton

Robbie is a 100 mile runner who is a member of the Great Britain 24hr Running Squad and Team Centurion and likes to run ridiculous distances as quickly as possible.

To provide enough food to feed a monster running habit, Robbie coaches other ultra marathon runners through www.robbiebritton.co.uk and is also a member of the coaching team at Centurion Running. He likes to dabble with a bit of writing so that others can learn from his mistakes and enjoy the sport as much as he does.

Robbie is also a is a Profeet ambassador.


"Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun"


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