Dash in the Dark – If you go down in the woods tonight, you’re sure of a big surprise. If you go down in the woods tonight, you’d better go in disguise!
Dash in the Dark is an opportunity to run a 10k trail race after dark in Black Park Country Park. The park covers over 500 acres of woodland, heathland and open space in South Buckinghamshire.
There was a limit of 400 entrants, minimum age of 16, cost of entry £17 affiliated, £19 unaffiliated (+ booking fee at checkout), free parking on site, toilets, and all finishers will receive a specially designed medal, not forgetting the cake!
This run is based on a two-lap course through the park in a way you’ve never seen before, with your head torch, glow sticks and fairy lights illuminating your way.
On arrival, marshals were directing you into the car park. They gave you a free parking permit for you to place on your dashboard. The car park had ample places to park. After parking, I made my way toward the race HQ. Facilities were good with four portaloos on the edge of the car park plus further toilets at the race HQ where you collected your number.
Collecting your bib number was easy, safety pins also were provided. They also gave you an orange hi-vis reflect ‘slap bracelet’. I am sure a few of you remember ‘slap bracelets’ from the 80s and 90s invented by Stuart Anders. They were a social phenomenon as much as a toy craze back in the day. I thought this was a nice touch. After all, you can never have enough safety or hi-vis gear. Slap it on your wrist and away you go…some ladies even wore them around their ankles.
People started to gather. Everyone wore body or head torches, which was a must-have if you wanted to run. Some runners were keeping the fun in the run by wearing fairy light tutus. Others had glowsticks attached to their clothing etc.
The race was due to start at 7 pm, and by this time it was somewhat nippy. I wish I had brought my gloves, a bit of a schoolboy error there! The run was 10k long and formed over two loops of the circuit. No chip timing but that didn’t bother me whatsoever. All I was interested in was getting some distance back in my legs. The event sold out with 400 runners taking part.
The route and recap
Eventually, it was time to get going. We all made our way to the start, lining up on the path which was the width of a single-track road with grass and mud verges either side. The atmosphere was great…it’s not often you find a run at night!
The race began…as you passed the start line, a DJ played lively music creating a fun and upbeat atmosphere. Initially, it was only possible to run at the speed of the people in front you, until everyone found there natural pace and spread out.
After my parkrun plod in the morning, I decided to take it easy and use the ‘Jeffing’ approach to get through the distance. I started at the back so as to not slow down or obstruct other runners. Jeffing is a running technique and approach founded by Olympian Jeff Galloway which uses intervals of running and walking over a set distance.
There were a few places where all the runners slowed, sometimes nearly to a standstill. Runners came across large puddles or areas of mud, many decided to go around them instead of through them. Of course, you never know how deep a puddle or muddy bog is, even-more so in the dark. Nevertheless, there were a few braver than me who just ploughed straight through the mud and puddles.
The route was marked out with reflective tape and fairy lights around trees, as well as a few ground lights in places. Not forgetting the marshals who were located at key positions, all of whom, had bright torches and directed you where to go. Some even had music playing…all were very encouraging!
My 2-minute run, 1-minute walk was going well. I found myself overtaking some of the runners and running at a reasonably quick pace. Then, while I was in the walking portion of ‘jeffing’ they would take over me. Eventually, after several rounds, the group of runners gradually peeled away as I started to slow down a little. Not really surprising after taking part in leap day parkrun in the morning.
Running on my own, I found the run/walk regime a little monotonous. When reaching 3 km, I thought to myself, ‘How long is this going to take?’ Nevertheless, I persevered and continued following the regime. Halfway around the second lap, I started to fatigue and consequently found I was dragging my legs slightly.
At one part of the course, there was a slight downward slope or dip, which was pretty slippery! I walked, as I didn’t want to fall over, nor injure myself, especially when just starting my running journey over again.
For this particular run, I wore my new Salomon Speedcross trail shoes. I had been planning to try them out, and these conditions were ideal. They were impressive, comfy…the grip was nearly as good as if running on the road.
Spot prizes apparently were being handed out. Luminescent shoelaces, I believe. I probably missed out by the time I completed the run. To one side of the lit finishing line and funnel, a large timing clock displayed your race time.
After completing the Dash in the Dark, you received a lovely wooden medal. Quite apt, as the run took place in a forest. You were also handed a small goody bag containing a cereal bar, apple and banana.
Returning to the race HQ, tea and coffee were being served. Furthermore, there was also a vast selection of cakes spread over two large tables. I didn’t indulge in the cake but enjoyed a lovely cuppa and bumped into a few runners from my local running club. It was nice to see some old faces as I had not been running or at the club for a while.
I had never been to Black Park Country Park before and will most likely visit again but in daylight. They even have a parkrun there as well.
Adopting a 2-minute run, 1-minute walk approach, I finished with a time of 01:30:56.
To conclude…I really enjoyed the Dash in the Dark. The marshals were friendly and encouraging. It was something different, fun, well organised, and makes a change from the standard Sunday races.
Therefore, I’m going to give the Dash in the Dark a score of 4 out of 5 on the Runiversity of life™ Runometer™
Route and elevation profile
Check out my other races and parkrun recaps and reviews.
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