Photo by Robert Sports for Supernova Runs, robertssportsphoto.com

Night running races with a difference

If you go running before or after work during the winter, it’s likely you’ll be running in the dark. What perhaps starts out of necessity, soon becomes a real luxury – as you discover the thrill and pleasures of night running.  

Running in the dark feels like a totally different experience to running in the daylight and the reward for persuading yourself to go out in the inky black is even greater.

One of the thrills of running at night is that instead of relying on your vision, as we tend to do during daylight running, your other senses become enhanced and amplified. With only a head torch to light the way, the impression of speed is heightened, and objects fly by in a bit of a blur. Sounds are amplified and wildlife comes down from the heights to share the trails with you. It’s exhilarating!

Safety first

If you do go running in the dark, safety should always be your number one priority. Always wear reflective clothing and lights to ensure that you can be seen. In addition, follow these simple safety tips to reduce your risk of potential problems: Safety tips for running in the dark.

For further advice on what to wear please read our Reflective Running Gear for After-Dark Adventures article.

What perhaps starts out of necessity, soon becomes a real luxury – as you discover the thrill and pleasures of night running.  

Night running races

In recent years, night running races have grown in popularity, as more and more runners embrace participation and organised runs in both daylight and darkness! There are a number of night runs taking place across the Scotland and the wider UK catering for all abilities.

Entering a short distance night race is a great way build your skills and confidence running in the dark, whilst long distance night races will provide a new and exhilarating challenge for the more confident, brave and intrepid nighttime runners out there.

Illuminator Run, Aboyne and Glen Tanar, October 28th 2017. Created by Firetrail Events

There are numerous races to choose from, offering a range of routes of different distances and levels of difficulty. Here’s a selection of our favourite ones.

The Mighty Deerstalker (March)

  • Location: Innerleithen    
  • Distance: 5, 10 or 20 miles    
  • Terrain: Trail
  • Difficulty: Hard

This truly is a running event with a difference. Don’t let the organisers (Rat Race) fool you with their playful descriptions: yes, it’s great fun, but it will be a challenge! The Mighty Deerstalker is a multi-terrain race taking you up near vertical scree slops, down treacherous wooded mudslides, through ice-cold rivers and water hazards, with obstacles chucked in throughout the course. A head torch is the only listed item of mandatory kit required, but we’d strongly advise wearing proper trail running shoes with enough grip. It will be slippy out there!

This race is open to anyone and folks are encouraged to do it in a fancy dress. Enter and share an unforgettable experience with friends and/or family. Especially at the Mighty Beerstalker Afterparty that awaits all participants at the end of the race.     

Recommended kit:

Race website: mightydeerstalker.co.uk/

Glow Ape Night Trail Run (October)

  • Location: Aberfoyle
  • Distance: 10k    
  • Terrain: Trail
  • Difficulty: Medium    

“Embrace the darkness and run into the lights!”. Tay Fitness offer a great undulating route in Glow Ape, suitable for all abilities. Featuring only one short climb and a few downhill sections, you don’t need to be an experienced trail runner to tackle this course. The trails aren’t technical and mandatory kit is minimal (you simply need a head torch and a fully charged mobile phone).

To add a bit of fun to the run, the first and last kilometer sections of the course are illuminated with colourful lights.

Recommended kit:

Race website: tayfitness.com/events/glow-ape/

The Illuminator (October)

  • Location: Aboyne    
  • Distance: 8k, 15k or 15 miles    
  • Terrain: Trail
  • Difficulty: Medium-Hard

Described as Scotland’s toughest night half marathon, the Illuminator features a 15 mile route in the beautiful Glen Tanar Forest geared at runners looking for a nighttime trail challenge. The organisers (Firetrail Events) added two new distances in 2019, open to both runners and walkers, to cater for all levels. You can now run, jog or walk the 8km or 15km routes with friends and or/family!

Be prepared to run in complete darkness with only your head torch to light the way, over rugged terrain, with no less than 500m of elevation. Definitely not a jog in the park!

Pumping music at the start line and a light zone offering a superb spectacle on the course, add to the race experience and atmosphere!

In terms of kit you’ll need to be prepared for any kind of weather. Warm and waterproof clothing is essential for the time of year. In terms of footwear, proper trail running shoes with enough grip and protection are essential too. The mandatory kit list stipulates that Illuminators’ must carry hats and gloves, nutrition, spare batteries, a fully charged mobile phone and any extra layers in a lightweight running pack (for their own safety). Rules well worth following!

Recommended kit:

Race website: illuminatorrun.co.uk/    

Illuminator Run, Aboyne and Glen Tanar, October 28th 2017. Created by Firetrail Events

Entering a short distance night race is a great way build your skills and confidence running in the dark, whilst long distance night races will provide a new and exhilarating challenge for the more confident, brave and intrepid nighttime runners out there.

Supernova Kelpies Run (November)

  • Location: Falkirk
  • Distance: 5k
  • Terrain: Road
  • Difficulty: Easy

The Supernova Kelpies Run is a timed event offering a beautiful spectacle to runners and spectators. Worth sharing with family or friends. the route will take you alongside the Kelpies sculptures, which are lit up and change colour for the occasion. The course is flat, making it perfect for a first night run experience.

This event is suitable for all abilities, whether you want to take it seriously and run hard, or go easy and take in the atmosphere and scenery. The event takes place on three consecutive evenings to allow a greater number of people to take part.

Grab a head torch and a good pair of road running shoes and of course, your strongly encouraged to dig out fluorescent clothing and flashing accessories to light up the night!

Recommended kit:

Race website: supernovarun.com/kelpies/

Images from the 2017 Supernova 5k, 10 November 2017 at The Kelpies, Falkirk. Photo: Paul J Roberts | RobertsSports Photo. All Rights Reserved

Glentress Winter Night Trail Race (November)

  • Location: Glentress Forest 
  • Distance: 10k    
  • Terrain: Trail   
  • Difficulty: Medium

As part of a fantastic weekend of trail running, the Glentress 10K Night Run is one of three fab trail events organised by High Terrain Events for mid November. Open to all abilities, the 10K Night Run takes place in Glentress Forest which offers a super array of forest trails. The route includes 330m of elevation, making it tougher than your average road 10k! However, the route predominantly features firm gravels trails and woodland singletrack, making it manageable for most runners.

On a clear night, the stars will light up the skies!

A head torch and a proper trail running shoe are mandatory for this race. Clothing wise, make sure to plan different layers to be ready for any type of weather!

Recommended kit:

Race website: https://www.highterrainevents.co.uk/glentress-10k-night-race

Run4It Dundee Tentsmuir Forest Trail Run

  • Location: Tayport
  • Distance: 5k    
  • Terrain: Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy

Our Dundee team hosts a free monthly trail run in Tentsmuir Forest, taking place on the first Friday of every month. Its aim is to introduce people to trail running and guide people off the beaten track. From October to March these runs become head torch ones as they start at 6:15pm. It is the perfect event to build your confidence running at night, as many runners will run beside you and the route is well marked. Darkness give a different atmosphere to the forest, making the experience even more thrilling.

The route, which changes regularly, is a 5k loop that you can run twice if you feel like running a 10k. You’ll need to bring a head torch, some warm clothes and a good pair of trail running shoes.  

Just come enjoy a fun night trail run with like minded people!

Recommended kit:

Event link: facebook.com/pg/Run4ItDundee/events/

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