Petzl Nightrunner - Grizedale

I did the Petzl Nightrunner last year and enjoyed the novelty of it so much I made sure it was in my diary for 2016.  Whilst the race is technically a fun run, the event demands respect - the course is roughly 10k, but over the first couple of miles there is an ascent of some 160m with some fairly sizable sections at over 10%.  To add some extra spice its all on forest tracks and at night.  As before I used my old orienteering torch with a battery pack strapped to my back.  The downside is the weight but on the upside the light is like a car on full beam!

In recent training I've felt that I've improved quite a bit in recent months.  Whilst the race is not comparable to anything on the flat I would at least see what improvement I've made compared to this time last year.  As we set off there were a couple of other runners who were going at quite a pace followed by myself and the runner who won last year next to me.  As we gradually climbed, the two runners at the front quickly dropped away as did the winner from last year.  All of a sudden I was on my own.  I knew that I was quite a bit fitter than last year when I finished 2nd so to be by myself was not entirely surprising, more so as the plan was to work to my strength and push on the early hills and try to defend any advantage on the descents where I know I'm weak.

Just before the off - note my huge head torch!

To begin with there were a few testing sharp ascents and descents and I could sense the lights behind me falling away a bit but had no idea to what extent.  The main climb then started after 1km and I continued to push as best I can without going into the red zone.  Every now and then I'd have a quick look back but along twisty forest tracks it is difficult to have any sense of what is happening behind.

After a couple of miles I got to a more open straight section and I had a reasonable look behind me.  Nothing.  Not even a hint of light from a head torch.  I therefore assumed my lead must be at least 30 seconds.  I continued to push and felt fairly reasonable although the ascent had clearly tested my legs.  It was now a case of trying not to throw it all away from being a weak descender.

After 2.5 miles it was mostly downhill and when there was a sharp turn I took another look behind - again not a hint of light.  Only after about 4 miles was I confident that the race was already won.  My pace continued to increase, not because of an injection of pace but simply due to the continued descent.  On the uphill sections my slowest km was 4.25 with an 85m net climb, but by contrast between 5km - 10km my pace was 3.11 - 3.27.   I could probably have gone a bit faster if I had to, but there was no need to go deep in the red zone.

Crossing the line - head torch now switched off


I eventually popped out of the forest and crossed the line in 36.39 which is some 3 minutes faster than last year.  I waited and I waited and I waited.  I had assumed my lead was something in the region of a minute, maybe a minute and a half at most, but no.  It turned out my lead was some 3 and a half minutes.  I almost felt a little embarrassed by it to be honest.  The embarrassment continued at prize giving when my time was read out and you could hear gasps in the room.  My prize was a small shield and a Petzl Reactik head torch that is worth circa £60.


If I've improved by about 3 minutes compared to last year it wouldn't be surprising to knock off 3 minutes off the Wheaton Aston 10k that I have coming up on the 27th December.  If that was to happen I'd be looking at around 32.25 which would be a massive pb (currently 33.58).  I think for various reasons that time is totally unrealistic - the course conditions were easier this year, my fitness was improving far quicker this time last year than it is now etc.  My training suggests around 33.00 to 33.30 is what I'm looking at and my time from the Petzl Nightrunner confirms this.  That said, predicting a time and achieving it are two different things!

Roll on two weeks and lets see what happens.


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