Those who follow my random tweets will have had an insight to this event but I feel it worthy of a blog post.
Ordinarily a run in the woods would go without any noticeable event, except running of course. This time was different as I embarked on jaunt after 6pm which in the northern hemisphere at this autumnal time of year is dark. The woods are not lit like some Disney playground and the ambient light from Edinburgh’s street lights don’t penetrate the thick old wood. It called for a head torch. Now you may query why one would want to run in such a place, alone and I was doing the very thing as I stepped from the street light lit road into the wide entrance of the wood.
The wood is perched on the top of Costorphine hill. Bounded by two main thoroughfares north and south and housing estates to the west and east. Edinburgh ‘s Zoo shares some of this real estate, incidentally.
The darkness grew as the street lights faded and my head torch light started to guide me through the wood. I wasn’t 100 metres in when in front of me slightly off the path two pairs of bright green eyes were being lit up by my light. They were wide apart, the eyes, staring at me through some trees. I couldn’t make out what type of thing they belonged to, I couldn’t make out a body or even a head. Just eyes. They soon disappeared after a slight pause, I supposed they’d be curious as to what this one eyed beast was doing disturbing their evening. Either that or they were flanking me ready to pounce. I trusted my instincts and ran faster. Knowing the zoo was just 10 metres to my rights I wondered if it was just some animals breaking out having a party. It could have been a lion, zebra, wolf, or more probably a couple of foxes.
Edinburgh was still this evening, unseasonably warm and the mist had been clinging about for a few days now. The mist interrupted my view as if running in the dark was sensible, in mist not very clever. Nevertheless I could make out the path and stumps and the odd muddy patch. The fallen leaves were hiding any distinguishable swamps but the trail shoes were on.
It’s funny running with a head torch, the Petzl I have is decent though it doesn’t light up the whole way. Maybe 10m ahead, and the periphery is pitch. Meaning that whilst running past shapes appear and disappear quickly with little time for your brain to work out what it was.
My breathing was hard, possibly to make sure anything ahead knew I was coming and secondly because I was running quickly. Though maybe not as quick as I thought I was.
Every sense was heightened including sound. I’d disturb some birds peacefully sleeping above into a flapper of panic stricken wing beats, which in turn would dislodge leaves that fell heavy onto the ground behind me. At first I mistook this for footsteps. Too frightened to turn around I ran quicker.
The path ahead was lit up but not everything. Every so often I’d brush past a shrub that I hadn’t seen, clawing at my calves.
I’d run through the wood to the northern most end where a path steeply drops to the road below or turns sharp left to bring you out into a clearing.
I could see the bright lights of the streets below, the orange speckled estates and the white light lined main roads were visible.
A bright white light was moving like a search light coming up from below. Another runner? Perhaps something else. I hoped what ever this was had seen my light thought this light approaching me was coming fast and was far brighter. I turned a corner and suddenly blinded. It was someone on a bike. Friend or for? I didn’t know but I said a friendly hello anyway and got one back. Crazy folk passing like ships in the night. I have no idea what said bikalist looked like as I was blinded completely by the light.
I turned and started descending. A smell of smoke hung in the air. I reached the road much quicker than expected and took a 90 degree turn to go back into the wood and back up.
I was wearing the inov8 mudclaws which are great for the trail but hard wet solid smooth rock, not so much. This part of the trail was festooned with this sort of rock, left behind from volcanic activity making my ascent difficult. Spotting the rock came too soon as the light didn’t pick it up. Yet another hazard from running in the dark. Also hazardous is the course you take, I had little to orient myself and I didn’t have the distance view to decide in time what fork in the road to take, instead making split second decisions to decide which way when a decision was presented.
Turns out I turned the wrong path. It led me out of the wood onto a clearing, a grassy side of the hill opening up the view to west lothian and south Queensferry with the bridges just in sight lighting up the horizon.
At the top of the hill and clearing an open fire burned. Discarded bottles of drink, carryouts and butts were strewn around it. No one to be seen. I’d wondered if I’d disturbed folk or if it had been like this for a while. I wondered if they thought I was someone else. Sirens were whaling around the hill from a distant emergency vehicle. Maybe the fire starters were fretting if it were the police. I wanted to see them to say I was no enemy and didn’t want to cause them concern, but on the other hand I maybe didn’t want to bump into these guys!
I entered the wood again. This time on a known path that I thought I could follow. I was running through leaves, rustling with every footstep. The wood was thick and little ambient light penetrated. My light was as bright as it has been or rather seemed brighter.
I located the steps to the north of the tower. Recognising this path I ran up and the dark tower loomed above me. A spooky folly square base but round top. Strange.
At this point more lights appeared in front of me. I could make out the outlines of people on foot as my light reflected off their gear. And their lights lit up each other. 3 other crazy runners. I politely said hello and for a half second wanted to ask if I could run with them. Safer in large numbers. However they were gone in a second and they were going the wrong way. Not far from the car I opted to brave the last 500m of wood alone.
What a run. Night runs are fun and maybe just that little bit more crazy. They will be ever present in my training plan over the winter and beyond.