Dukeries Dusk into Dark

And now for something completely different..a dusk into dark race around the splendid surroundings of Sherwood; Nottinghamshire. Well what else would you do with £20 on a Saturday evening? Walk early, run late and why not?

I entered the race only 7 days prior to the event, doubtful that I would be able to:complete the distance given I had only been running 13.1 milers including the massiveness of and I had never ran on dark trails before with a head torch.

However life as a runner is all about challenging not only the body but the mind as well. So off I challenged myself.

Whilst many ‘locals’ were still running round the ‘Round Rotherham 50 miler’ today including Sheffield Running Clubs’ very own amazing Laura Ingis I was making my way to a forest in Nottinghamshire, for my Saturday night out and the start of Dukeries Dusk into Dark 20 miler. The challenge was either 10 miles in dusk or 20 miles in dusk and dark, head torches compulsory. I had just got my new head torch courtesy of my leaving pressie amazon voucher from my last place of work a few weeks ago. Fab timing.

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. – George Carlin

30 or so runners lined up for the start just as the autumnal sun had began its decent to set, whilst we were set to go and run 10 or 20 miles. And we were off armed with enough high vis gear to set the whole forest alight, amidst maps and instructions of the route and enough gels and other sticky things to stick the great wall of china back together. We had been told at the briefing that the course was only marked at path junctions with little glow sticks and a bit of red and white tape. That is if no one had decided to take them down – shame on inconsiderate vandals who took down the markings for the summers’ event.

The first mile took us on farm tracks past a chicken farm – I didn’t think anything of this until the finish – keep reading keep reading. Soon we were going deep into what was described as boggy narrow paths. And they were right. I was running with a group of about 4, unaware as usual of the pace I was going. Once on the open woodland paths we all found our own pace and ran through the mud and puddles that the previous days’ weather had left us.

Initially I was pussy footing about the edges of the mud and puddles but that was soon to change as I had no option but to go straight through some of the larger muddy puddles and just get muddy feet. Muddy feat are good its what makes trails such good fun. Alas number 28 decided that muddy feet just wasn’t enough and took a tumble straight into one particular muddy bit, to ensure that muddy legs were what makes trails such good fun too. I wasn’t going to follow him.

From grassy narrow footpaths to wide open leafy woody tracks, from farmers plantations and across foot bridges. More tractor tracks, these are difficult than you may think to run on as the tracks are narrow so you can’t just put one foot in front of the other one, but you can have that song by Fun in your head, because this was fun and I was really enjoying myself.

Love what you do. Do what you love. – Wayne Dyer

At around 3 miles I recognised the road from the Dukeries Ultra in the summer – the penultimate checkpoint on my 30 miler. This route tonight was unfamiliar to me. However I had my route map and 2 map print outs supplied by the organisers, and it was two laps so I was still fine. And so was the weather as the sun was still gleaming down, creating a dusky setting for my running antics.

Back through some lovely woodland, watch for the dips and troughs here Number 28, as he took another tumble and hurt his ankle / leg, I stopped to ask him if he was ok, and ensured he could run on it before continuing. No accidents please as Mr 28, he did eventually hobble back onto his feet and continued. Through some crops I went and back into the woods, meandering around the trees roots and autumnal vegetation. I felt very comfortable and was really enjoying the route, up and down and round and round. This was my sort of event. The concrete streets were the last thing on my mind out here. Stick me on a trail and I am happy.

A little ‘hill’ near on 5 miles marked the checkpoint where three lovely marshals stood, ticking us off and offering us flapjack and banana, water or high5 juice. I took some juice stopped to say thank you and then ran on as my fellow runners in front of me had just done.

Around 6 miles I began to feel pain, was it the high5 or was it something else? I had just taken a Torc gel too – I had never taken these before so it could have been this, however it made me get what I call “poo pains”. Poo pains are pains when you want a poo when running. By around mile 7 or 8 I was in agony. I looked behind me there was a bright yellow top behind however I made a dash down a little lane and shouted to the guy not to follow me as I had to go, a girl has to do what a girl has to do. I was good and did it in all the proper ways with all the proper supplies in my pockets. If Paula Radcliffe had to go in her Marathon then I have no shame to say that I had to go to. Its just nature people. Nothing to be ashamed of. Just remember there is magic in misery. Just ask any runner.

Run for the run of it – Author Unknown

Feeling much better after my poo stop I ran on down a very muddy lane; dodging the worst of the mud and feeling much more stable. The other couple of runners were now well in front of me after my poo stop so I did loose a bit of time on that. Onto the road I went, and suddenly I lost my orientation. I recognised the road so I thought but didn’t realise I had already done 9.3 miles I thought I had only done about 8 miles, so I was very near the end of lap one. Up the lane and onto the lap 1 checkpoint where I took on some water this time, said my thanks to the organisers as they told me I had ran the first lap in 1 hr 15 and 15 seconds. Whoop. A sneaky peep at my watch told me I had run 9.5 miles. Happy with that. Including poo stop.

I ran on to catch up one of the guys in front of me. I felt more confident on the second lap but darkness was falling and falling fast as the sky lit up in an amalgamation of gorgeous reds and oranges whilst we ran through it. Or it felt like that anyway. A gorgeous setting on a very peaceful night. I dug out my new head torch and put it on my head, that’s better as the light was fading and fading quite fast now I didn’t want to trip over that hazardous tree stump or that tree root that the inconsiderate tree had decided to grow to annoy mad runners who decide to run trails in the dark – health and safety first.

Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. – Edna St. Vincent Millay

It was my first proper time running with a head torch on an off road event so all new experiences for me to encounter. The torch was very stable and portrayed a good enough beam for me to see what I was doing. I was able to tip it at different angles to see either straight in front of me or further ahead. Mighty impressed. I was still following no 28 and another guy though they were a good minute or so in front of me by now and my body was fading a little just like the sun. I am chasing the sun. Chasing the sun.

We’ve only just begun

Hypnotized by drums

Until forever comes

You’ll find us chasing the sun

The Wanted: Chasing the Sun

Knowing the route now I could mentally adjust myself and use the landscape as markers to push on through. Back through the woods it gave me a good taster of trail running in the dark. The torch was an invaluable tool to see every rabbit burrow, every mole hill, every puddle and every piece of mud.

A hello again at the midway checkpoint along with another cup of water to wash down most recent jel – this time my regular ones which I knew I was good with. Thanking the guys on the checkpoint (I love twitter! – hi guys!) I ran onwards having now lost sight of Mr 28 and other fellow friend. I was on my own now and once again I needed the loo. The glow sticks were working in full force now at the junctions so although I began to feel disorientated running in the dark the glow sticks were most indispensable.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. – Robert Frost

Back through the narrow field track and over a bridge with added barriers in the way to worsen those somewhat tiring legs. Now was the time to dash further into the woods for poo stop number 2. I don’t make a habbit of this you know, in fact its the first time I have had to poo stop at an event / race. But I did come supplied so all was good. Too much beetroot from my garden perhaps?

I began to feel stronger after that stop but alas my race belt which held my very crumpled up number and my little bottle of water broke – my bottle went flying on the floor and I fumbled about trying to tie race belt back together again. Though I wasn’t really taking on my own drink I found it handy if I needed a little sip and had found this strategy invaluable previously.

Faffing about obviously slowed me down yet once I had sorted myself out I picked up speed and began to spot the 2 fellow runners in front of me. I was catching up number 28 as I felt the best I had done all through the event, running on sunken tractor marks through fields of crops where I overtook number 28 with some kind words asking how his ankle was.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. – ARobert Frost

Back in the woods, it was now proper dark and navigation and concentration was at its uppermost here. I found it very difficult to concentrate on watching a few metres in front of me with only the beam of the torch to guide me. This was different to daylight running, a different set of mental skills as the eyes adjusted to the beam of the torch and concentration was at its maximum. The brain was now processing the darkness of the footsteps rather than when running in day light the brain processes either speed or technical mechanics.

There was little room for speed on these muddy dark tracks but that was all part of the fun. This was multitasking the brain power at its best, processing every little obstacle and running over it, splat and onwards. I knew my speed was dropping, although I was wearing a Garmin I don’t tend to look at it when at events only afterwards to see my highs and lows. It was not possible to go much faster as I did not want a splatted Helen. So I was careful, picking out the easiest routes from the beam of my torch.

I was soon to catch up with the other runner in front of me which in itself posed further challenges. His high vis rucksack and running gear lit up like a blazer of fire via the beam of my head torch. I could either watch his footsteps and follow his moves or concentrate on my own torch and my own moves. I decided on the latter as I still feel unstable ploughing through really muddy bits of trail. I am still a girl at heart and this showed for on the really muddy puddles. Mr high vis rucksack runner got further ahead of me on the muddy bits then I would catch him up then he would speed away through the mud again with an elegance of man power that a girl like me just doesn’t posses. Again the technical brain processing of running in darkness with just a bean for navigation was somewhat challenging.

The farther you go outside, the farther you go inside – Author Unknown

And beep, that was my watch telling me I think I had done 18 miles, the last mile to go. I felt strong and knowing the road was coming up I picked up speed at the same time as navigating my way over clumps of grass with my beam. I hit the road just as a stream of traffic came from my right so I had to wait until it had passed to run across the road down the footpath and a sharp right back to the checkpoint. About 200 metres to go and I put in a sprint to finish first lady (out of how many maybe just one – ha ha!).

The best bit was to come; after guzzling down a couple of cups of water and having a friendly chat with the guys on the checkpoint I was handed a box of eggs, yes a box of eggs. Now how cool is that? Run 19 miles and get a box of eggs – pure brilliant. Beats a crappy cotton t shirt that shrinks in the wash any day. Much more practical. Will run for eggs because eggs make cake. Eggciting, eggstatic. And I won a nice bottle of wine for being first lady. Rather pleased.

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success. – Henry David Thoreau

My time was around 2 hrs 34 minutes; includes checkpoint stops, poo stops and no 28 going over on ankle stop – just over 8 minute mile pace which is what I was aiming for, so happy. A fantastic low key event giving the perfect chance to sample safe but challenging night running on multi terrain over a great distance of 19 miles. Thank you Dukeries once again for a fantastic Saturday night out. Party on! Run on! So I ran a 19 miler half in the dark – cute!.


Time: 2.34 – 19 miles
Gender Postion: 1st Female
Position Overall: 3rd

Results from Dukeries Events

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