Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Running at night, a whole new experience

I’ve written previously about the benefits and techniques of training runs at night, but this is slightly different. Time pressures have been such on me of late that I have done 7 of my last 9 runs under cover of darkness! It seems that training for Ultramarathon distances is at least a part time job in terms of the time commitment needed.


So as before I have benefited from being able to focus on my form without other sensory distractions, as well as the pure enjoyment of running in the dark as it feels like you’re running somewhere different.  


What I have experienced recently have been 3 phenomenon which you will only experience at night under specific conditions.


First up, I am lucky to live in an area with little light pollution so not only has there been a a mass of stars, but more excitingly shooting stars. I’ve been lucky enough to see three in two successive nights – needless to say I took advantage of the opportunity to make some wishes, and I’ll let you know if they come true!


One of my pics from a recent storm
Secondly, and this was tied in with a shooting star observation.  It was a clear night and I ran up the local hill where you get a great view across the coast and hinterland. About 30kms to the south there was a large and energetic thunderstorm, with lightening flashes every 30 seconds or so. The cloud was lighting up like something out of some big budget movie, looking more computer generated than real.  On one occasion a shooting star streaked across the sky towards the thunder cloud, appearing to crash into the cloud itself, at which moment the cloud light up with the flash of lightening within it. This is the logical observation and explanation, although it could well have been an alien spacecraft attacking an experimental fusion powered spy plane, I’ll leave the choice up to you.


Finally and in my mind the most amazing was something that I had never seen before, and may never see again. Again it was another clear night with an almost full moon. I was running in the Noosa Head National Park, and was heading back towards Noosa. Although it was a clear night one small cloud had worked up enough energy to squeeze out a little rain (mainly on to me I think!). With the moon at my back, looking over towards Fraser Island I saw a moonbow, basically a rainbow formed from the moonlight shining through the rain.  At first I thought it was my eyes playing tricks on me and it took a couple of minutes to work out what it was. Because the moonlight is far weaker than sunlight, you could not distinguish the colours, but it was just a pale grey colour. Inside the arc was also a little lighter in colour than outside, just as with a normal rainbow.


Moonbows are very rare because the moon must be full or  a day or two either side, at a low enough angle in the sky, the sky must be clear where the moonbow is projected else you can’t distinguish it from a grey cloud background, and it must obviously be raining. So you can see that there may only be a 30 days a year when the moon conditions are right, and only a few hours of those nights when it is at the right angle, and it must be clear skies, and it must rain – all in all you may be better off buying a lottery ticket!
(Courtesy of Leigh Hilbert)
Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me, but I did manage to track down an image of one thanks to the wonders of the internet!


To add to these meteorological experiences, I had a few run ins with the local wildlife. I've spooked an owl, and had it flying a few metres in front of me down a wooded trail, and a similar experience with a flying fox (the biggest bats in the world I believe). The bat was so close to me that I could feel the draft from it's massive wings. All great experiences that you don't get when running in the daytime.


So rather than struggling to find something worth watching on TV, why not step out and see what your local night environment has in store for you?


Run Happy!
Andy


“The eye only sees what the mind is prepared to comprehend” – Henri Bergson