I am a long standing fan of all things Foxlake and Foxtrail and have been excitedly waiting for the return of their Winter Trail Running Series.

In no small part because of this weekend – their night time runs as part of the Saltire Festival.

Friday saw the return of the 5km and 10km races of which I participated in the 5km with four girls from my run club.

Normally racing is a bit of a stressful experience and not something I really enjoy but when one of your team turns up and announces she’s ‘not exactly sober’ and is dressed as a light up Christmas Tree then there’s only one thing to do – have FUN! And that’s exactly what we did. We started as a team and we finished as a team and the whole thing was amazing! The route was beautiful and the Foxlake team had put a LOT of effort into lighting up the forest and as always the marshals were bouncy and encouraging and it was just a lovely experience from start to finish.

Some of the girls had never run on trail at night before and it was such a great experience to bring everyone together and do it as part of a team. I’m feeling really thankful for the community that our run club has cultivated and also really thankful for the stunning places and events we have on our doorstep.

So that was Friday. And then came Saturday…

The Nocturnal Ultra Marathon.

6 hours of 5km loops. In the dark.

I was entered as a solo female and had plan A, B and C as is now typical for me before any event.

Plan A – 9 laps. So 45km. I figured if I worked to 30 min runs with 10 mins tops in the pits that would give me 9 laps. Seemed easy.

Plan B – was to be out on my 8th lap when the 10pm firework sounded. This was factoring in the fact I’ve run every day with this week and might be slower than expected.

Plan C – 6 laps. So this was everything going wrong, legs not working, life is shit but we’re still making some distance.

It all started really well. The first 5km literally just whizzed in and I ran it much faster than I wanted to or expected to. I also bypassed the stopping plan and went straight back out for lap 2. Coming back in it was just under the hour mark and with my Mum and Dad there with Jess I decided to make a quick stop to take on some nutrition.

Except taking on nutrition always ALWAYS gives me a stitch and I was already struggling with a dodgy stomach. The third lap wasn’t pleasant.

When I came back in Claire was there and reminded me that stopping wasnt an option, so off I went again.

The route on Saturday was slightly different to Friday but each time I went out the first half always felt like a struggle. I was in my own head which is never a good place for me to be and I wasn’t really enjoying it.

So after 4 laps I stopped. And announced I didn’t really know what the point was and having decided I’m no longer doing things I dont love was stopping to reassess things.

At this point I was 40 minutes ahead of my plan A time and was in a place where I could’ve hit 10 laps. I just didn’t want to. So instead I drank some hot chocolate and ate some potato thing with cheese and garlic and ummed and ahhed about going back out. Was 20km enough?

No. Of course it wasn’t. I sat in the pit tent with Tim and talked strategy and I decided to go back out again. After 90 minutes in the pit lane I shrugged off my coat and strapped my head torch back on and bashed out two more laps back to back.

This was my first Ultra and what really surprised me was how friendly people were. All the way round and in the pit lane everyone was chatty and positive and just running their own race. Normally races aren’t long enough to stop and chat, people are so focused on winning that no one chats – and I LOVE a chat so this was right up my street.

Graham found me chatting in the female pit box as he came in from his 9th lap and he convinced me to go out for one more. I had been sitting down for a while because my stomach was still doing the dodgy ‘if you move you’ll puke’ thing but after he assured me he didn’t mind walking if we needed to we went out again.

The last lap was amazing. About 1.5km from the finish line the marshals had started a fire and we stopped to have a selfie with two of the Foxlake team. And then, before I knew it – we were done.

It was 9.30pm and yes the urge to go back out again had returned massively but the desire to not be injured and the feeling of not needing to prove anything to anyone kicked in and the chip was handed over and that was that. Race done.

The atmosphere at the finish line was amazing, there were a lot of relay teams running and the support was just incredible. It was a genius way of incorporating every kind of runner into the mix. There were people running 17 min 5kms and people running 45 min 5kms and yet everyone was in it together, all running the same loop, all experiencing the same weather and same conditions and all running their own race.

At 10pm a magnificent firework display signalled the end of the race and the handmade wooden medals were given out. And everyone was still smiling. Albeit a little stiff and cold.

I’ll admit; after 4 laps I was feeling decidedly underwhelmed. I didn’t really want to be there and was struggling to see the point. But going out again, although hard at the time, was the best thing I did. Had I finished on 4 laps I would’ve been very disappointed. And digging deep shows you what you’re made of.

I love running. I love trails and I love running with people I love and respect.

All of those things happened this weekend. It was amazing to see my team complete the 5km on Friday and it was amazing to see my friends complete some serious mileage on Saturday night.

The one thing that’s annoying me is I’m yet to hit the ‘Ultra’ distance but I did manage to make some of my goal so it wasn’t a bad weekend. Just need to work with the plan and trust it will happen.

All in all the Foxtrail weekend did not disappoint. There was beautiful trails, magically lit forest, supportive cheery marshals and unlimited macaroons in the pit tent. What more could you want?