If you say “I’m not lost” then that is a sure sign that you are, in fact, lost. Not that I was lost when I said it. I knew exactly where I was – in a wood, near Elgin, at night, in the dark, surrounded by deer – but I admit I may not have known quite exactly which path to take to get back to Elgin and not end up, hours later in Inverness…
Last week, I decided to try some night time trail running. I was in Elgin and, while there is a lot of nice varied routes to run round, there is one thing missing: hills. Elgin is flat. If you dropped a slinky, it would not slink. Elgin’s completely flat. Run through town, flat. Run through Cooper Park, flat. Run to Maggot Wood (one of my favourite place names as it does make you think how many maggots must there have been to name a whole wood after them), all completely flat.
For a change, I decided to run out of Elgin and try some trails I could see through the hills on Elgin’s western edge. I brought my head torch, found a willing companion who didn’t baulk when I said “fancy going to the dark woods tonight”, and we decided to see if we could find a route through the trees.
Problem one: we didn’t know where we were going or where any path might start.
Problem two: we didn’t know that everything looks like a path when you only have a head torch to guide you. A flat bit of grass between two trees looks like the start of a patch when you can’t see further than three metres in front of you.
Problem three: Dear, God, what are those glowing eyes in the woods!!!! Head torches, we discovered, make every deer glancing in your direction and caught in your headlight, look like they’re possessed by the eye of Sauron.
Problem four: sometime the darkness in front of you is not just darkness but a twenty-metre drop from the side of an old quarry. A good tip, quickly learned, was to only step where you can see the ground in front of you.
Problem five: if you hit an A road, turn back. A roads don’t have pavements and cars racing at 70mph to Inverness pass very close to you if try and venture onto the verge.
Problem six: if you turn back, remember where you have come from as, when you finally meet three mountain bikers out cycling with powerful beams you don’t have to say “I’m not lost but, do we turn left or right here to get back to Elgin?”.
Apart from that, night running is fun, just remember to keep safe though when out!