I’ve never been one of those runners who took delight in going on a run after the sun set. You’re much more likely to find me running before the sun rises, watching the world wake up and capping off my morning run with a hot cup of coffee.
But over past years, I’ve participated in an increasing number of events that require me to run through the hours of the night that most people chose to spend asleep. I’ve paced a friend to a strong finish at her first 70 miler, I competed in an ultra Ragnar relay team, and most recently, I completed my first 72-hour adventure race. That last one saw me battling three consecutive nights of racing. Each experience is different, but there are a number of take-home points that have been helpful to me through each event.
Have a fantastic light system. Whether I’m mountain biking, canoeing or running through the night, having a strong light system that brightens my path is the number one thing I have with me. It helps me stay alert, is key for my safety to help me see what’s in front of me and it makes me visible for others.
Take caffeine. I do everything I can to cut the fatigue when I need to keep pushing hard. I find the hardest part of the night is right after the sun sets and right before the sun rises, so I’m armed with caffeine pills and my personal favourite: chocolate covered coffee beans.
Know your route. If possible, study the night route you’ll be racing during day light hours. Everything is more difficult to navigate at night and having that confidence in your direction will do wonders in terms of making the race more enjoyable.
Train at night. In advance of my all night races, I do night trail runs to get used to navigating roots and rocks with just a light system. The less foreign you can make night running, the smoother your race will go.
Accept that it will be hard. The initial thrill of being outside when everyone else is sleeping will wear off. When it does, you’re left feeling cold, fatigued and wondering what on earth you signed up for. I try embrace the fact that it’s not going to be fun. You are fighting against your body’s natural circadian rhythms so it will not feel natural or comfortable. Just focus on the goals that you have set for your race.