18 Dec Nocturnal Race Review – Ross Beveridge
Nocturnal Race Review – Ross Beveridge
As winter kicks in and the sun falls out of the sky at 4pm, night running by headtorch is becoming the only option for me at the moment. Embracing this new challenge I was looking forward to the Nocturnal, a looped Ultramarathon on the trails around Foxlake Adventures near Dunbar. The premise is simple: starting at 4pm runners loop around the 5km course as many times as they can before the race ends at 10pm and the winner is the runner (or relay team) who completes the most loops in the fastest time.
The course is 90% forest trails with multicoloured neon lighting set up in the trees to add to the ethereal atmosphere. The quiet of the woods and the rhythmic pounding of feet only being interrupted by the “rave barn” halfway around the course which pumps out hits from across the decades and blinds you with disco lights before you are plunged back into the dark of the woods a few seconds later. It’s all very odd but very fun!
Before we started there was an enthusiastic and fun warmup courtesy of Project Awesome, consisting of jumping around, squats, shouting and hugging. I’m not usually one for hugging strangers but if I’m going to do it, it’s probably best to get it out of the way before we are all sweaty and covered in mud!
Having never done a looped Ultra before, I was a bit unsure as to how much I would enjoy running round and round a 5k course in the dark but I found that after a couple of laps I was getting really into it. It wasn’t at all boring and knowing what was coming each time helped me to pace each lap. That’s not to say I didn’t struggle at points. I started off pretty quick by my standards as I chatted to Matt Gemmell who I had met previously while running the Great Glen. As with that race he left me behind after a short while and finished well ahead of me! On the second lap I decided to drop my pace back a bit as I had run this course the previous night as part of the Foxtrail Winter Series 10k and I didn’t want to burn myself out too early.
I knew a few others who were running and met up with most of them over the next couple of laps. Ali Wylie who I knew would be going for a podium finish breezed past me as she lapped me for the first of 3 times as I started out on loop 3. I had already been lapped by a few of the male runners on loop 2 but just told myself that they were probably relay runners (they weren’t!). Before the race, I had told myself that 10 loops in the 6 hour time limit would be something that was both achievable and something that I would be happy with but during loop 5 I hit a real low and found myself walking little sections and taking an extended stop at the generously stocked aid station. This did not bode well. Stuffing my face with chocolate brownie and jelly babies I discovered my new favourite race beverage. Active Root was one of the sponsors of the event and after trying their natural ginger drink, I hope they will be sponsoring more events in the future!
Sugar boost achieved and stomach settled, I got a bit more into my stride over the next 3 laps and began to enjoy the race a bit more. Every time I passed another runner, they gave me an encouraging comment or ran with me for a bit and had a bit of a chat. Every 5 minutes or so there was also a chirpy marshal who appeared out of the darkness to shout some well-wishes and encourage those who looked like they were struggling a bit. Some of them must have been frozen to the bone but it didn’t seem to dampen their spirits! Coming into the last hour, I knew I had a couple of more laps in me and it was just about maintaining pace now and pushing myself a bit on the final lap.
Despite craving some more of the gingery Active Root juice, I breezed right through the aid station on my 9th loop and headed out for the final push with about 25 minutes to go, my 10th lap now assured. I got about three quarters of the way round the loop when the fireworks signalling the end of the race started to light up the night sky and I stopped alongside another runner to watch them. Without any discussion we both decided just to coast down to the finish line while we chatted about the event and our previous years races. Obviously, we started running again as we came around the corner at the finish line so as not to look like we weren’t trying.
As we crossed the line, we were given our medal and pointed in the direction of the cafe kiosk where we could get a coffee and a cup of soup to heat our insides. I have to say, it’s probably one of the tastiest soups I’ve ever had! After a final visit to the aid station to scavenge some cake and juice we were called to the main tent for the prize giving. I was delighted to see Ali had bagged 2nd placed female (as she had already done the night before) and had succeeded in lapping me 3 times! It was good to see everyone staying to the end to congratulate the winners and catching up with their friends and loved ones and sharing their experiences.
By all accounts, the first ever Nocturnal race seems to have been a resounding success and I have to say I enjoyed the experience of a night time, looped Ultramarathon greatly. So much so that I signed up for the Glenmore 24 that night! The organisers put on a great event and make sure you are well briefed and looked after before, during and after the race. The marshals and other runners are all superstars who are full of encouraging words and keep your spirits high even when you are struggling. I will definitely be back next year if I get the chance. Well done everyone!