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Run into the dark - Fell running at night


My breath is a cloud of fog in front of me, illuminated by the brightness of my head torch. The cold air numbs my face as I climb steadily higher. All around me is silent, without a breeze stirring the still night. I top a rise, and jog over to the first summit, tapping the cairn with my gloved hand. There is no one about, I have not seen anyone since I left the car. My headtorch blinds me to the world outside of its beam, isolating me, and making me feel like I am the last person left on earth.


Only two hours prior to this, I was sitting at my desk, in my brightly lit office, surrounded by people, with all the comforts of the modern world. For the past few hours, I have been proofreading an article, staring at my laptop as I make alterations to the lines of text. I glance down at my watch, close my laptop, and go to the bathroom to change into running clothes. I sign out of the building, walk a short way in the dark before getting into my car and starting to drive. It becomes quieter as I turn off the main road to go along a narrow lane before, eventually, I pull into a small car park. I turn the headlight off and blackness swallows me. absolute darkness.


I exit the car, shoulder my rucksack Turning on my head torch, a pool of white light illuminates the area around me, limiting my world to mere tens of feet. Off I run, up the sloping lane, through the field gate and out onto the fell. Pinpoints of light, reflections from the eyes of sheep, grazing on the fell, follow my progress as I run. I have done this route many times, but never in the dark. I begin to question where I am and if I am going the right way. Points of reference are harder to identify, odd shadows throw familiar waymarkers into doubt. I find a stile and cross over, partially regaining my confidence in navigating the night time fells. I turn my head to look across the valley and see other head torches on neighbouring fells, small points of light, each representing a like minded spirit that has abandoned the comforts of home to go to these dark fells. Below there are clusters of houses, I imagine people inside, warm and content inside. Should they take the time to look outside and see us, could they comprehend why I, and the other points of light were here? Could I comprehend why they weren't?


I reach the end of my route and turn to run down. I am going slower than usual, partly due to the darkness, but also to postpone having to return home, leaving behind this quiet, beautiful landscape. I stopped at a viewpoint, a small craggy outcrop that offers a final chance for a view of the surrounding landscape, before the last descent. I turn off my head torch and stood, blinded by the darkness, lost without my pool of light. I was alone, in complete silence. My eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. Black shapes ahead of me were outlines of the fells, superimposed on the inky blue of the night sky. Stars as far as the eye could see, added detail to the sky, impossible distant but seeming no further away than the lights on neighbouring fells. A shooting star rocketed across the night sky, but apart from that, all was still.


After what seemed like an eternity staring at the night sky, I turned from my spot, switched on my head torch, and ran off into the night.


fell runner on a style at night
If you going to do something, do it in style


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