A night time run, at the end of November, through the forest, after a week of sub zero temperatures and blistering cold winds.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night.

The second race of six in the Foxtrail Winter Series 2016, a 10km run set within the heart of  Foxlake and the surrounding trails it really was a run that excelled in all aspects.

As is typical of my pre-race drama, I had spent all day working myself into a flap about this race. Things that are top of my ‘these things frighten me list’ are;

  1. Tripping/slipping/falling/anything that will cause me to break a bone.
  2. Being outside, alone in the dark.

So inevitably, I was a bit apprehensive before we started. And as is always typical, as soon as the starting horn sounded, all the fears and nerves evaporated into the night-time mist and I was fine.

There was nothing about this race that was disappointing. The start/finish line was in a heated marquee that was home to the spectators, as well as a disco, so when we came through for our second lap (this was a 5km route run twice), there was plenty of encouragement and support. The first section of forest was lit up like the enchanted forest and was absolutely beautiful to run through.

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The marshall were amazing, shouting words or encouragement and praise all the way round. It can’t be easy (or warm) standing around watching other people run past, but these guys didn’t falter once, and there were enough of them that even in the wilderness in the dark there was no chance of getting lost. And to top it all off there was even a optional river splash just before the finish for the hard core runners amongst the group who fancied adding a dip in the partial frozen lake to their list of achievements for the day.

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And that’s the one thing that sets these types of races apart from OCR events – these participants are runners. Like proper runners. It’s almost easy (and I say almost because you have to be able to produce some sort of ridiculous speed at OCR events to win) to do well at OCR events and not be a super fast runner. Not here. The first finished male came across the line in 37:32, which equates to ‘really fucking quick’ in technical running terms. The fastest female was home in 40:52 which is mind bogglingly fast considering my fastest ever 10km is 45:23 and that was on the pavement. These races are packed full of hardy, experienced, fast runners, which can be as intimidating as it is encouraging.

I crossed the line on Friday night in 57:43, a good 16 minutes behind the winning female. I didn’t even make the top 50% of females on the night. Which is fine, I wasn’t trying to run fast, I am still in recovery mode from 30for30 and I signed up to these purely to keep me running over Winter. But as much as I know all of these things, it’s still slightly sobering to see that so many people are so much faster than me. It’s also very humbling to see someone not even breaking a sweat whilst ‘jogging’ at a 6min/mile pace.

What I have learnt to accept this year is the fact that there will always be someone faster than me and always someone slower than me. As long as I, or you, go out and give it everything on the day, whether it be race day or recovery day, then that pace is enough. I’ve also fallen in love with running again this year, which is just as well really, and Friday night was an absolutely stunning reflection of the sport that we all love.

Thank you Foxtrail team, for a spectacular race, from the atmosphere to the organisation it was one of the best races I’ve run this year. Who knew running around on the ice in the dark would be so much fun! See you in December for Race #3!

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