12 May Uni-lite Night Trail 10K Review by Colin Caesar
6th May 2017, UNI-LITE NIGHT TRAIL 10K WALES
The eve of the Cadwaladers Porthkerry 5 MT 2017 was marked in fitting fashion, as the Penarth and Dinas runners had a distinctively Barrian flavour, in the form of the Barry triumvirate of Ben Butler-Madden, Richard Jackson-Hookins and Caesar himself (that would be me), who came, saw and conquered the trails of Afan Forest Park. Completing the Barry theme were the Seriously Mad Runners of Barry, wild, ruthless mercenaries who outflanked the field of other runners in the cover of darkness, preventing any retreat whilst Ben and Richard took control at the front, with myself (relatively) close behind. Keeping watch for us at the start/finish line were Bethan Apglyn and Dexter, Ben’s faithful friend, who provided keen support. It was a successful night for the Penarth and Dinas runners.
(there ends my terrible impression of a poor man’s Eddie Butler, you’ll be glad to know).
The evening didn’t start off entirely smoothly, as the journey to Bryn Bettws Lodge was aided by very confident but inaccurate navigation by Richard, who knew exactly where he was taking us but not where we were supposed to be going! Fortunately the mistake was identified quite quickly and Ben steered us back on course to arrive in good time.
The Uni-lite night trail is not a club championship run but it will be familiar to anyone who ran the Buff Wales Trail 10k, which was the first run of this year’s club trail championship. The course and set up are the same, with numbers and goodies (t-shirt and mug on this occasion) being collected from the lodge prior to the start.
It was a short walk to the tree lined start line, with a shortish funnel. The field size was about right for the course I feel, 264 finishers according to the website, I made the mistake of going to the back of the field, which would hinder me for the first mile. Working through the field wasn’t too difficult, but unnecessary – my own fault. The race announcer was loud and enthusiastic at the start and the finish and helped bring some atmosphere to proceedings.
Although classed as a night race, at 8pm there was still reasonable light, helped by the clear weather. A number of runners had head torches, I didn’t have one and it wasn’t needed for me but it may have come in handy for some of the later finishers.
The course is not very technical, consisting almost entirely of stony trail path, and in the conditions on the night, normal running shoes would have probably been ok, although wearing trail shoes may still have been better for attacking the downhill stretch.
After a brief descent from the start, the course, which largely consisted of long straightish stretches broken up by fairly sharp turns, started off with a gradual, but none too challenging ascent that lasts for about a mile or so. After that were two downhill stretches combining for about 2 miles, with a brief climb in between where the only drinks station was. This was my favourite part of the course as I could stretch my legs and effectively fall down the trail without too much exertion, helped by having confidence in the footing underneath (there had been a sustained dry period of weather).
After this, there was another stretch of around a mile or so, which was flatter but with a downhill tendency, so it wasn’t a shock to the system after the steeper downhill section.
What follows is the sting in the tail! The stretch ends with a sharp turn taking you uphill, along what would become a rockier path. The marshall reassuringly informed me that it wasn’t too steep, however I had run the route before and recognised her remark to be a bare faced lie! The course ends with a long steep stretch, followed by another sharp turn and an even steeper rocky ascent to the short, flat home stretch. Most people will be walking for at least part of this section, or at best will be running at walking pace. I tackled this section better than I did in the Buff 10k, only walking briefly whilst I got over a stitch. Prior knowledge was definitely an assett.
For those who ran in the Buff 10k I would say that I preferred this outing, probably because I knew
what to expect and also because it was a lovely evening and I was able to take in some lovely scenery in the clearer skies – Buff 10k was rather murky.
As I hinted earlier, the race was a success for the club, with Ben winning the race in a time of about 38 minutes and Richard following in 2nd place, only about 20 or so seconds behind! Ben and Richard were the only runners to break 40 minutes. I finished in 20th place (17th by chip time) in around 47 minutes – 4 minutes faster than when I did the Buff 10k. The race was another excellent result for Ben, who is currently racking up podium places, and further confirmation that Richard is now finding his form after a frustrating period of injury for him.
The event was a “Night Trail” and I thought originally that it was perhaps a little early, however the light had faded for the later finishers and people would take a bit of time after to cool down etc. after the race, so the timing was just right – doing a true night race in the forest trails would be quite hazardous and not much of a spectacle for spectators, but as it was it all ran very smoothly in my experience.
To cap off the night, there were free sausage and chips on offer for all the runners in the lodge, before the final presentations, the awards made to Ben and Richard were met with very loud cheers, provided largely by those Seriously Mad Runners, who appeared to enjoy their prelude to the Porthkerry run that they would take part in the next morning. Mad!