Race Harborough have been putting on the Tunnel Vision Night Run for three years now and last year they also introduced a Dawn run so having already been to both of the evening versions of the race this year I decided to check out the morning run.
The event takes in 2 and a half miles out and back of the Brampton Valley Way, a trail/ cycle path that runs alongside a disused railway line from Northampton to Market Harborough and most importantly goes through a 422 meter long tunnel. The night run starts at 7.30pm and the morning run at 6.30am meaning both are in the dark so runners are required to wear head torches with only the tunnel itself lit up.
It wasn’t ideal waking up to the coldest day in a long time. After scraping the ice from my car windows I was on my way. The temperature gage read -2 which didn’t fill me with excitement for what was about to come but I knew other than staying indoors, which wasn’t an option, getting out and running was the best thing for warming up on this crisp November morning.
Parking is located at the near by leisure centre, it’s free and the building had just opened meaning I could use the facilities pre race and have a much needed warm shower afterwards before heading off to work. The distance to the registration and start is just under a mile so I used that for my warm up run which was ideal.
Expectedly there were a lot less participants than the previous night (just over 70 compared with well over 300) but I knew from previous experience I still needed to get to the front as the path is fairly thin and overtaking is tight, the main reason why the organisers had made the wise decision to not allow runners with dogs on the night run, they were however still permitted in this event which would turnout to pay a major part in the outcome of my race.
As we were set off I heard the cries of “go, go, go” from one of those with their four legged friend and he was pulled into the distance as I tried my best to navigate my way around a lady who also had her pet hound on a lead. Once I was past her I was in second place and attempted to give chase on the early leader but all I could see was his blinking red light flickering away into the darkness. I was hopeful that I could gain some ground as the race went on so kept pushing but I didn’t feel any pressure from behind.
As I entered the tunnel some two miles in the shelter from the weather made the temperature instantly increase but there were plenty of puddles to negotiate which meant slowing my pace slightly but I did still manage to remember to take in my surroundings here and appreciate the uniqueness of the experience.
Once out the other side it wasn’t long at all before I approached the half way turnaround point. Here I got to see the leader (and his dog) on their way back before turning myself and seeing everyone else behind me. At half way you are given a quirky gift to take away with you. The main point of this is to prove you’ve ran the whole distance which I think is a clever idea. Two years ago it was a ring with a flashing light, last year it was some glow in the dark glasses and this year a Hawaiian Garland.
The first mile or so heading back is always the trickiest in this race as you constantly have runners coming towards you but everyone is told to stick to the left and this was adhered to by almost everyone.
I was expecting going back through the tunnel to be much the same but what happened was something truly remarkable. Entering it was still very dark but as I exited dawn had broke and the skies were now much lighter. I no longer needed the light from my head torch and as instantly the race conditions had changed.
I ran in the last couple of miles actually getting quicker but didn’t manage to close down the gap of the leader so finished in second place where I had been for almost the entire run.
We were greeted in with a glow in the dark medal, a race branded mug and buff and a selection of breakfast delights to chose from including tea, coffee, orange juice, croissants and oak bars which was a lovely touch. What was even better was the fact that it was only 7am yet my days workout was already done.
The only negative I can give this event is the obvious one of allowing dogs and that’s for two reasons. Firstly even though they cut them from the evening run due to the numbers being higher I still feel there is that factor of them getting in people’s way which was apparent here and secondly due to the matter of fair play. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against dogs or people running with them if it’s a fun run or if they are doing it in their own sport of Canicross, which I actually think is brilliant by the way, but this is an event that provides chip timing, published results, a prize for the winner and trophies for the top three finishes so it’s quite clearly a race and therefore the rules should be followed and their is no doubting the fact that being pulled along is assisting performance.
Please don’t be mistaken for thinking that this event is filled with people running with wild dogs though as I only saw the two I’ve mentioned and both were well behaved. This was a run that truly makes you appreciate just how brilliant the sport we do really is. There’s something special about getting out and running before most people have even got out of bed. This race makes you feel a whole lot better about yourself even if you already felt great before.
Photos by Mick Hall: http://mickhall.zenfolio.com/
Check out this great video from the event’s Facebook page of some of the action in the tunnel: