Sunday, September 25, 2011


  Well  having just spent the past week 'taking it easy' to see how I would feel, I can honestly say it seems to have worked; so much so that at the last minute I took the plunge and signed up to run the 'Illuminati' night run in the hills above Theoule. I figured that although it was pitch black, I knew the area very well and armed with  a new head torch, should be okay. It was only 20k's, including a couple of big climbs and nothing for an Ultra runnner such as  myself !!!..... Would my renewed confidence get a shock or could it actually be fun?
      About 150 of us stood on the beach, headlights beaming on a warm starry night.....  I decided that whatever happens I would stay in this positive frame of mind........and seconds later we were off. The first slight suprise was how fast everyone was going, (I thought, calm down, this is well within your capabilities just go with the flow).....and so I did. I am now fairly used to being one of the oldest kids on the block so I just positioned myself in the middle of the pack and chugged along. Unlike most people here I knew virtually every rock, hill and bush on the course and I hoped this might be to my advantage in the dark. All these positive waves, could I fail? ( I started sounding like Oddball, in Kelly's Heroes!).
       The first 3k's were easy along the beach and then a sharp, very steep climb up into the hills and total darkness......Wow! My first thought was; 'Good job I bought new batteries.....don't fancy a blackout here'.Then I had my second thought; I always run with special gloves in case I fall and in the darkness I was pretty much guaranteed to have a few tumbles.... BUT..........I wasn't wearing any!!!! This was the very first time I have ever forgotten my gloves......Unbelievable..... I decided to stay positive and just get on with it.
       Its weird in the darkness as you get very zoned in on your tight surroundings, hearing every breath and footfall you make, its not spooky, its just you and your little beam of light.

 In the distance, as you climb all you can see are these little lights bobbing along against the blackness of the mountains in front and behind you; its quite surreal. I was feeling good and on quite a few of the hills as I climbed, I kept a steady cadence and passed a few people.... the only problem was that on the way down they would pass me back. The French just bomb down these really steep inclines leaping over rocks and tree roots. I thought I'm not having this, Ive just passed you lot, so when the track evened out a bit I ran quite fast to keep ahead so that they couldn't catch me up. Its all a bit pointless because its yourself you are actually racing against but it makes it interesting and more fun. The best bits about running in the dark are 1. Its a lot cooler and 2. you can't see  how steep the hills are - because you can't see anything - so you don't get too disheartened during a big climb.
  At the halfway point I felt great and was even enjoying looking out at the dark shapes of the mountains and when we got to the top I could see in the distance the lights of the towns strung along the Medditeranean coast .......Fab.
      The elite and lots of the faster runners were already miles away so I stayed with my little group and just decided to enjoy the experience.
      Its strange, after running 60k, this 20k run was a breeze; even though it was tricky and you really had to concentrate on where you put your feet; I heard later that one guy did get injured and they had to take him to hospital.....(glad I didn't know that till the end), this would not be a good place to have an accident if you were on your own.
     I never once checked my watch because I thought I was doing okay and didn't want to break my confidence. There are some real tricky bits on the last descent and I slipped and fell quite a few times. Its really steep, uneven and dark but once back on the flat I jogged along easily. I could see five lights ahead and began closing in on them, I could tell they were tired by there stride pattern, so I just hung back and waited till all the hills were gone and we were back on the beach. There were 2 k's to go and I eased passed a few of them until there was only one guy left that I could see.
     I remmembered reading Lance Armstrong's psychogical ploys when passing people and I thought, why not? (This was of course before we knew that he was using other non acceptable ploys). Just as I went to overtake, I sprinted and kept that up for about 2/3 minutes, he was so taken aback that he just let me go. It worked  and settling back into my rhythm I finally crossed the line in 2 hrs - 30 mins, averaging exactly 8k's per hour, which on trails and in the dark I was pretty pleased with. My unnoficial position was 104th out of 140 runners! This time I didn't cry as you can see from Sue's picture.......infact it was nearly fun.
     Afterwards they served a rather tasty vegetable pasta on the incredibly civilised. All in all it was rather a good night.


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