Kielder Dark Skies 14 is a night run around the largest man made lake in the UK. Kielder has ‘Dark Skies’ park status which makes this run even more special on a clear evening. The distance is actually more like 14.7 miles and has a course elevation of around 1000ft.
Race registration is situated at the Hawkhurst scout centre which also doubles up as the finish line, literally inside the scout hall! Plenty of parking is also situated here but I’d recommend arriving early as cars were parked along the narrow exit road later on.
From arrival I was given a very friendly welcome and directed the short distance up a path to registration. Here you undergo a kit check to make sure you have the minimum mandatory kit which includes headtorch, spare batteries, food, 500ml water and waterproof jacket. Once passed, you are given a wristband and can proceed to collect your race number.
We had a few hours to while away but luckily plenty of our club members had accommodation on site, so after a spot of tea and an hours feet up after the drive we got changed and did our final bag check.
The race starts part way around the lake at the dam but the organisers provide coach transport to the start from the registration area. The journey only takes 10 minutes or so. The briefing is done at around 7.55 followed by a song to get you pumped up. This year it was Dakota by Stereophonics! A beautiful sunset heralded the start, then it was headtorchs on and a quick good luck to those around you before heading off into the dusk!
The course starts winding through the forest paths before rounding a narrow part of the lake and climbing uphill. Looking back across to the forest was amazing as a line of distant headtorchs lit up paths. The course is a constantly undulating one, first uphill then downhill, and as such there are no real ‘massive’ climbs involved. Saying that, it’s still leg sapping and I did walk at times enabling me to grab drinks and snacks from my pack.
The course is very well marked with many luminous flags close to the ground making navigation foolproof. There are not many Marshalls on the course apart from at the couple of food/drink stations, but there were a few hardy volunteers at random points cheering you on! The skies were clear and the stars were out meaning it was a chilly one, about 2C. Not quite as cold as the marathon the previous night I’ve heard!
The T-Shirt, medal, wristband and neck buff made for a very good haul and I have to say the tea, coffee, biscuits, cake and fizzy drinks were most welcome afterwards!
A great experience and excellent atmosphere before, during and after, and something I recommend everyone does at least once!
Thankyou to Trail Outlaws and the many volunteers for putting on such a cracking event!