The day had arrived that I had been dreading from the moment I signed us up to the National Trust’s Night Run at Lyme Park, Cheshire. As someone who detests the cold, who has a natural aversion to outdoor pursuits, I knew that running around in the dark on a winter’s night was probably not going to be my cup of tea. What I didn’t expect, was what an adventure it would actually be.
At dusk, we drove through the gates of Lyme Park . We followed a long, sloping road and it became apparent just how vast the park stretched. The road dipped down to a chalky car park next to the mill pond and a visitors centre.
It wasn’t hardly as cold as I imagined it would be so I decided to remove one of the four layers of tops I had decided to wear. Registration was quick and easy. Once Noah got his number, he could not contain his excitement. He was ready to go.
We had got there so early we still had an hour until the start of our race! There was a cafe but we had some jaffa cakes and hot chocolate in the car so we went back for a quick snack. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to not turn up so early as Noah did not like waiting so long.
Noah entertained us with a game of ‘Simon says’ (he insisted on being Simon) and shortly after it was time for the first race to set off, a longer 5k Adventurer route.
Once the runners had disappeared into the distance, it was time for us to get ready to set off on our more reasonable 3k Explorer route. In a little tent near the start line there were complimentary glow stick wristbands and glow face paint. Noah didn’t want to paint his face but I had a go. He loved making shapes with the glow sticks. By this point, a crowd, mostly families, had gathered at the start line.
We started off behind everyone and Noah became quite frustrated as it was it was difficult to run with many people in front of us choosing to walk. Once we overtook a few people, he was hard to keep up with.
A steady incline slowed us down as we made our way up under the orange hue of the sky. At the top we marveled at the view; a valley of glittering lights of the town below us. A calm moment before the terrain contorted into a particularly hilly, uneven, beaten track. To add to the treachery, the pathways were covered in sloppy mud.
Despite all this, Noah ran effortlessly ahead. Trying to keep up with him, climbing almost blindly up a steep hill, I became aware of just how unfit I am. When I reached the top, a steep downhill path to a black abyss loomed below me. Noah had already accepted and completed the task ahead.
It wasn’t long before I slid onto my bum. A kind participant gave me a hand up. This was one of three spectacular falls. By this point, Grandad had also overtaken. I spent what felt like a lifetime carefully treading (or sliding, whatever) the mud drenched path. When I reached the lovely, even tarmac path (what a relief that was) Noah had doubled back to meet me. We did a bit more running. I started to feel confident again.
Then an event marshal ushered us off the main path and back onto the slushy obstacle course. This time it was worse. Deep puddles and the type of mud you sink into. We were getting slower. Noah had grown tired. We decided to walk the remainder. Noah enjoyed using his head-torch to search for interesting rocks that he had “always wanted” and pried them out of the mud.
We tried our best to navigate around the messy trail, sticking to the sparse grass at the sides. The wind had picked up as we clambered up another peak so Noah and I held hands and pushed through. We realised one of the event marshals was following us. Were we really taking that long? It was good though because the worst of the mud was still to come.
In places we had no choice but to wade through, sinking and sticking. This time I felt it ooze into my shoes and I almost lost one of them. More marshals were behind us and it became apparent that we were the last of the participants on the trail. Noah boldly exclaimed ‘I am never ever doing this again’ to everyone. They were really supportive and had lots of knowledge about where the worst points of the path were. They talked to Noah, keeping him motivated. It was a lovely surprise when we got near the end and the marshal mentioned there would be a goody bag and medal awaiting him.
When we reached the last tarmac path, they encouraged him to sprint the final stretch. I had one of his hands and a marshal had his other. We stormed through the finish line, with people walking to their cars cheering us on. Noah beamed as one of the helpful marshals presented him with his medal.
Also waiting for us was soup and chunky bread. Noah didn’t know what he wanted so the lovely ladies got him to sample both soups.
Noah and I agree that we’re both extremely happy that we finished the course but that next time we run it will be in the daytime.
In the summer.
And on a road.
Now I am left with one question, how do I tackle these?
There’s still plenty of night runs to take part in until March 2018 at National Trust Properties at several locations in the UK. Have a look here at what events are coming up!
It’s recommended by the event organisers that participants wear a head torch (I recommend this too as the trail is not lit). We got ours from Decathalon for £3.99 each 🙂
We would also like to mention that we were not last to finish the race, Grandad was.