Steve and I are now onto our summer long run schedule. We’ve been holding out for as long as possible, but with day time temps now regularly nudging past 40C and slim chance of the cooler 20s, even at night, we are now starting long runs just after midnight. Eurgh!
Summer feels like it’s come all to quick in the desert. We’ve already ‘enjoyed’ a few days where running in high temperatures has meant flirting with heat exhaustion. And according to my trusty training diary, we did our first night time running foray on 2 May last year – so on 1 May 2015 we did our first of the year.
With 40km to lay down, we finally got on the road just after 2.00am – yes, you did read that right. I’m not going to say it’s easy but it’s way easier than running past 7.00am, and summer proper hasn’t really kicked in here yet.
Starting out a run in the early hours makes for a few added challenges:
You have to be tucked up in bed for 8pm to catch four hours’ shut eye before waking at midnight-ish to prepare to run. I’m not going to lie to you, this is tough and probably isn’t healthy (but then again running in plus 30C temps isn’t either). It’s also sort of good ultra training, since many of the longer treks start in the evening continuing through the night to finish the day (or day) after. Being able to trot on when the rest of the world sleeps is a useful skill and it is something you have to train your body to do.
2. It’s dark
The desert, even in the city, is a dark place. We use headtorches, brightly coloured and reflective gear, and for this year, Knuckle Lights. It’s useful to carry spare batteries, although we have been known to purchase on route at 24-hour petrol stations. Running by torchlight takes practice as your eyes get accustomed to the varying light level; you’ll generally go slower than in daylight but again it’s great practice for those long under-cover-of-darkness ultras.
4. Dead hours
Running from night into dawn is hard. Your body doesn’t think it should be awake particularly in that hour just before dawn, when there’s also fewest people around. You need to be vigilant in fuelling on route, hydration and picking your feet up to avoid taking a fall. It doesn’t matter what distance I’m running, my heart rate notches up about three beats 30 minutes before day break. I’m pretty sure this is stress-related so just back off on the pace until everything settles down.
5. Breakfasting at midnight
I cannot run on an empty or even empty-ish stomach, when I get up to run I put something in even if it’s just a banana. It’s my way of telling myself to wake up and get ready to go. Breakfasting in the early hours is also accompanied by good old coffee.
6. Irregular digestion
If runners aren’t discussing their shoe choice, they are chatting about their bowel movements! Running in the early hours does make you more prone to irregularities. Being sensible about food choices the day before and after certainly helps, as does attention to your core exercises in training.
You may have started running at night, but you’ll be finishing in daylight. Remember to carry sunscreen in your pack and to apply on your last water stop before dawn, for as soon as that desert sun hits the sky it burns.
Running in the early hours isn’t for every one, but as Steve says: “I’ve just got up after midnight to run at 29C – that’s the temperature of a British heat wave!” It’s clear to see why we have to, we also got to see a flock of parakeets at dawn…and no we weren’t hallucinating 🙂