If you’re thinking of taking on any Ultra type challenge, likelihood is you’ll be experiencing an element of night walking. This can be a surprisingly difficult part of the challenge, but oddly enjoyable with some participants calling it out as their favorite part of an event (bar the actual finish of course).
What follows are some general tips to consider when training for any night events. I’ll be posting more up on specific head torches in my gear reviews to come.
Get the right head torch – Like choosing any gear this is at first an obvious point but should take the most time to get right. With LED technology there are a host of lightweight and powerful torches on the market. Be sure to look in to their various features thoroughly. You’re going to be heavily reliant on this piece of gear and if it fails it could leave you in a very difficult situation. Battery life and brightness (measured in lumins) are the first considerations, but also look for how weather proof they are. Many low to mid range torches are merely splash proof, and personally I wouldn’t like to be caught out in heavy rain in the middle of the night without a working head torch! Also be sure to check the fit and weight when wearing. Don’t make a rash purchase, give yourself time to research specific product reviews online before parting with your hard earned cash.
Try it more then once before the event – Once you have your torch, use it! Again, this may seem obvious but many people do not practice night walking before an event. Try and organise a group of you to go out together, or sign up for smaller overnight events to get used to the feeling of walking when your body is telling you it should be asleep, it takes getting used to, as well as using a head torch. Top tip – Remember you’re wearing a torch when you turn to talk to someone, it’s very easy to dazzle others!
Time your meals – A solid tip for avoiding jet lag when travelling is timing your meals. Likewise when walking through the night keeping your body nourished and giving it food to process helps with your metabolism and keeping awake. Doesn’t have to be a huge meal but keeping the food (note good food, don’t be calling in for a dodgy kebab, that’s not sober food) going in will help you stay attentive.
Think about safety – Avoid walking alone, and even when walking in a group be sure to let others know your plans and when possible stay in contact with them. Unfortunately we live in a sometimes less safe society and lone walkers in isolated areas are vulnerable, particularly in the event of any injury or emergency. Train in groups and during the events most organisers will advise people walk in groups for safety.
Be wary of straying from the path – Even if you have navigation experience, it takes a strong knowledge of navigation to get by at night in the dark. If you’re on an event then be sure to pay attention to the signs and stick to the route. If training organise a familiar route close to civilisation. If you get disorientated head towards street lighting, or at the very least turn around and retrace your steps back to the last known navigation point.
Kicking out times – Something I’ve come across again and again during both participating and volunteering are drunk people! From general jeers to out and out rudeness (asking participants why they are so late walking, is it because they are slow… was one example) it’s a real factor to consider if walking near populated places. They likely mean well and are not acting like they would do normally, either way it’s best to avoid confrontation or give a friendly smile and crack on with your walk.
Walking at night can feel at little strange at first, but it’s a unique experience, like much of what we experience during these sorts of challenges. Take the time to enjoy it as much as you may see it as a daunting challenge, if nothing else the sunrises alone are worth it.