The Run Queensland event, Wild Horse @ Night, took place on Saturday 17th June 2017. The course covered the flatter trail sections around Wild Horse Mountain in the Glasshouse Mountains, Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I ran the 25km while Morgan (husband) and Megs (dog) ran the 10km. We understand that Megs was the first dog to cross the line — yes, we’ll take anything.

Always ask the most intelligent member of your team to check the gear… Water – Check. Dentastix – Check.

Firstly, let me say – if you’ve been hesitant about running around the trails at night, strap that head torch on your nut and off you trot. Okay, so maybe factor in a little planning, and even better, head out with friends – but really, it’s well worth it to see a whole different side of the world you run in.

Until Wild Horse, I hadn’t “raced” at night before but I had been on a few night time trails runs with the NUTRs (Noosa Ultra and Trail Runners) around Noosa National Park and have been lucky enough to see cute little echidnas snuffling around (for the UK readers – think, like a hedgehog, but not as cute perhaps; for the US readers – think, like a porcupine, but cuter); Tawny Frogmouths (an owl like bird) and the odd serpent. Wildlife aside, the main attraction for me running at night is the peace – a peace unlike anything you experience during the day, even on the quietest of trails.

But I digress, on the Saturday night I lined up with a bunch of other keen beans (almost 200 of them in total!) at 6pm and ran the 25km Wild Horse @ Night trail race. To paint the scene, imagine a large bunch of runners, with their little beams shining bright from their heads amidst the trees, about to embark on a course which could put Tough Mudder’s water and mud levels to shame. Yes, it was muddy – and for those of us out on the course for the longest (yes, that includes me), the heavens kindly opened to add to the giant puddles and drench us – but this is trail running, so on you trudge. And hey, what else is there to do on a Saturday night eh?! No, don’t answer that.

And off we ran into the darkness..

Organised by Run Queensland, the night had on offer 10km, 16km and 25km options, with all three distances covering the same first section of the course. I have to confess, especially since this was in theory a last minute race entry and a low heart rate training run for me, I was in no rush and carefully avoided all the long, deep sections of muddy water as much as I could. This generally meant following the person in front and tip toeing/sliding around on a narrow stretch between foliage and giant puddle… Let’s just say, by the time I was on the homeward stretch, I was soaking wet, getting a bit chilly and very keen to get home – and there was no such pussy footing around. Straight through the puddles I ran, splashing like a joyful child, while crossing my toes that there weren’t any friendly leeches hoping for a free ride to the finish line. I really should have just taken this carefree approach from the start.

From my point of view, the conditions underfoot really were the greatest challenge of the night. Stretches of deep sand and mud were about as bad as it got. Otherwise, the course is flat and fast and the signposting pretty good. I was pleased not to have any navigational issues, since, as seems to be the theme of my trail run “races”, I found myself mostly alone in the pitch black, with just the sound of my breathing (creepy) and the odd reflective piece of tape marking the course, to keep me going. That’s not to say however that people didn’t stray off course, including the course leaders. I had a moment of  “oh my gosh have I gone the wrong way and missed a section of the course” when I heard a female voice shout “Hi, Sarah!” behind me, only to turn around and discover that Chrissy Redwood – a NUTR who went onto win the race – was flying past me. She called out that she had gone off course, and in the blink of an eye, she was gone again. That will be the only time I find myself ahead of Chrissy…! It seriously is impressive to watch these faster runners negotiate the terrain with speedy, light feet as if it were just a plain old run along the street.

The first checkpoint (complete with lollies [AKA sweeties], although I confess I didn’t stop to sample on this occasion – that’s probably a trail crime in some people’s books!) marked the turnaround for the out and back 10km course, while the 16 and 25km runners looped off onto “Loop A” which was my favourite part of the course. A mix of fire trail, single track and the odd tree or two to climb over. This section of the course runs alongside Tibrogargan Creek, although admittedly, the track itself resembled a creek at some points so in the dark I wasn’t paying too much attention to my surroundings, while mainly trying to stay upright! Once complete, the 16km runners headed off back towards home while those of us running the 25km headed off into more darkness on the largest and final loop of the race.

I can’t honestly recall much of note about this loop, other than some long sections of fire trail, where I could occasionally turn around and see the reassuring glimmer of a chain of lights behind me – it’s always good to know you’re generally heading in the right direction! On I ran, semi aware that my heart rate wasn’t quite as low as it should have been – but really, it would have been a long night had I slowed down at this point and I wasn’t heading anywhere fast as it was! I have no doubt that an underlying anxiety about getting lost in the bush in the dark didn’t help, but I would also say that this race has totally alleviated these fears – I promise, you’ll be fine! As my longest run since my knee injuries in 2016, I made a deal with myself to just keep running comfortably and so I did. The only downside of the course for me really was that on popping out of the final loop, you were sent back up the hill to the checkpoint, only to then run back down the same stretch towards home. Little loops like this are always a good mental test, and at least an opportunity to see some more people and wave and say “hi” as you ran past. Fortunately, it was only a short section and before I knew it I was back splashing through the puddles I had cautiously avoided on the way out!

25kms later, and with a big smile on my face, I ran across the Finish line to the sight of the warm glow of the stalls, the blinding flash of the photographer and the promise of a new Run Queensland beanie to keep my sodden head warm. But the highlight of the event for me really was that both my husband, Morgan, and border collie, Megs, had also been able to join in (…and hadn’t gone home without me after their race). A warm hug from the fur face and one from the dog too, was a welcome end to what had been a fun, challenging at times and definitely rewarding trail run.

Thanks Run Queensland – a great race for first time night trail runners!

Kit I used on the night:

  1. Ay-Up Lighting Systems head lamp – honestly, I have never come across a brighter headlight. Yes, they’re an investment, but one that I really could never regret for how well they light up the trail (especially compared to the Petzl that Morgan was left with, sorry M!)
  2. Salomon Hydration Pack – 5 set – I’ve reviewed this here
  3. Garmin Fenix 3 Rose Gold (white watch straps aren’t ideal for mud, but I do love this watch)
  4. SOAS Racing shorts – also reviewed here
  5. 2XU Compression socks – I plan to write a wee article on my various compression socks!
  6. Hoka One One Challenger ATR shoes – the originals.

Yeah Flash Photographer – you ain’t no challenge for my Ay Ups!

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Even while racing, Megs refuses to look at the camera.

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Megs – first dog across the line. Morgan – first man carrying dog poo across the line?!

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Photo credit: R Farrow – Tony and I ready to race! A little excited.

Nae bad really.

Course details and other Run Queensland events can be found on the Run Queensland website.

Have you run Wild Horse @ Night? What was your first night time trail race? Feel free to comment below! Sarahx

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