“Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Last week I decided to accept this challenge. I chose to go trail running at night… solo. Now I love running trails solo, but have never ventured out into the night on the trails. I have journeyed out into early morning darkness, but that was based on the knowledge that the darkness would quickly turn to the lovely golden light that brings with it feelings of safety and confidence. This run was going to be very different, it was going to start in darkness and end in darkness. There would be no warming glow of safe sunshine, just the bubble of light cast from my headlamp. I tried to keep my focus within this little bubble of light, not thinking so much of what might be happening outside of it, what might be scurrying in the depths of the forest or peering at me from the darkness with vision more accustomed to nightlife.
I left the house that night, reached the car and turned right back towards the front door, but just before I reached it, I forced myself to stop, turn the other direction and head right back to the car. “Just go!” When I actually got to the start of the trail and started running the first section, which runs parallel to the highway, the presence and light cast from passing cars gave me a sense of security. Somehow I convinced myself to just run to the top of the section, before it spit me into the forest. “Just cut it short it’s okay” I told myself. But the closer I got to top I couldn’t let myself be that easily persuaded, I knew I would regret not following through. So into the dark forest I went.
Shouting and clapping as I went, I refused to look behind me, which I often do on trail runs during the day to make sure I am not in the way of oncoming bikers or faster runners. But this time I knew if I looked behind I would see only a few feet of light cast by my headlamp and then darkness. In all honesty the only fear I had that night was of large animals that may be roaming looking for a night-time snack, and I did not want to surprise anything that was out on the trails looking for food. My mind mostly turned to cougars which frequent this particular area of town. I had to keep telling myself that the only difference on the trails at night is the absence of light; there was nothing out to get me now that wouldn’t be on the trails during the day. It just feels scarier…keep running.
About 6km into the run I forced myself to turn off my headlamp and just look up at the stars. I looked up towards the sky and then scanned the area around me. I could see only blackness in front of me and behind me, my heartbeat quickened and I was just in that moment, afraid and alive.