Having previously only ever taken part in road runs, 2016 has proven to be a year of running firsts for me.  In July I took part in an OCR event for the first time and on Wednesday night I ran in my first ever trail run; to make that one just a little bit more exciting, it was also my first ever night time run complete with head torch.

Wednesday’s run was the first in a series of three night time trail runs organised annually by the Carnethy Hill Running Club and took place in the Trossachs in Aberfoyle.  To add a little extra spice, the key event organiser was none other than fell running legend – only don’t say that to her face – Angela Mudge; she’s kind of a big deal in the sport but also very modest about it.

My participation was solely down to my work deciding that this would be a ‘fun’ early Christmas night out – working for a running company now, I really should have expected something like this.  I say that this was my sole reason for taking part as normally I wouldn’t look out a trail run to take part in, however, when (and I mean when) I take part in my next trail run it will be my choice as I thoroughly enjoyed this new experience.

The night itself was fairly mild and not worthy of the three layers I’d wrapped myself in in preparation of it being a cold one.  It was dark, but hey, it’s night time in November in Scotland.  What else would you expect?  Fortunately I had borrowed a pretty powerful Petzl head torch to illuminate the trail.  I was also trying out my new Peregrine 6’s for the first time and was thoroughly looking forward to see how they’d cope with the run.  As I would later find out, they held up pretty well in the conditions providing a good level of grip and support for the majority of the run.

The Peregrine Club. Can you guess which feet are mine?
The Peregrine Club. Can you guess which feet are mine?

Knowing that I am in no way an elite level runner and a complete novice at trail running my main ambition once the race started was simply to get to the finish line, and then to the local pub where I had a pre-ordered steak pie, chips and pint of Belhaven Best waiting for me.  That’s what I call motivation.

For me, as a newbie to this discipline, I found the course quite tough in places.  I’m not so used to the hill climbs as I tend to run on the flat and thought that some the inclines were never going to end.  The descents however were nice and I was able to freewheel down quite a few, making up some time along the way.  A couple of sections were also too boggy to run properly – another new phenomenon for a road runner like me – whilst at the highest point of the run I found that even my strong head torch was of little use against the sleet and mist that awaited us there.

But my god, there was something amazing about running in the dark, not totally sure of where you are, and breathing in clean, fresh air.  On the whole, the trails were great to run on and the marshal’s gave us fantastic support as we made our way round the 5.5 mile course.

I was comfortable with the fact that I’d probably be a tail runner for most of the race and was looking to complete the course in my usual 10km time of circa 55mins, accounting for the undulating nature of the course to compensate for the shorter distance.

During the race I had no idea where I was placed.  I started near the elite runners at the start line but spent the first two miles going backwards as the crowd passed me.  I then settled in to a group of about five or six runners but was none the wiser as to whether we were the last five or six runners or if there was another group behind us.  Not wanting to finish last I made sure I was at the head of that group.

As it turned out we were not the last five or six runners after all.  I crossed the line with a time of 54:21 and placed 89th out of 115; ensuring that I met my time target and did not finish last.

On to the pub where steak pie and pints were greedily devoured.

I also found out that two of my workmates placed in 1st and 3rd, while another won the F40 category.  Not bad eh?

I’m not around for the second race in the series but there’s every chance I’ll make the third and will report back if I do.