First Headtorch Run: Upton Heath

This whole blog started because next year I’m planning on running in the Endure 24 event.  Part of the requirements is that you must have a head-torch – as a 24 hours event, it will obviously be partly run at night.

I’ve never used a head-torch for running before, and over the summer dusk is so late that it’s not really practical to get out and try one out.  But I had borrowed my sister’s head torch (she’s run 40+ marathons including several multi-day ultra’s so she’s got all the kit 🙂 ) and was desperate to try it out.

Roll on September – the evenings are getting darker quicker, and it’s given me an opportunity to try out this running experience at a far more reasonable time of day.

This is also the first post that includes some photos from my new Pentax WG3-GPS camera which I spoke about here.

Poole at dusk from Upton Heath

Poole at dusk from Upton Heath

I’m assured by people who’ve run Endure24 before that you don’t really need to practice with a head torch as in June the length of night is pretty short and you can get round easily.  But during this year I’ve really been taken with the idea of long trail runs, and the thought of not being constrained by the day-to-night transition appeals to me, so I want to get some experience with night off-road running and see how I get on with it.

I have to say, before I went out I was pretty nervous.  I’m not one of those naturally nocturnal people who just wander around in the pitch black (if they even exist), and the thought of being out on in the middle of a few square miles of heathland in impenetrable darkness on my own did fill me with a certain sense of fear.  But I do like to experience new things, and that easily won through!

I left around sunset time, so I’d have a good 20 minutes before it got dark enough to need the head-torch, and made my way out onto the heath.  It actually took longer than I thought to get dark, and I was getting a bit impatient with the dusk so I put the torch on in the middle section of the heath before I really needed it.

Upton Heath Panorama (with some dodgy in camera blending!)

Upton Heath Panorama (with some dodgy in camera blending!)

I took a few deliberate trails that I knew went round in circles, and as the light faded the effect of the head-torch increased to give my own patch of relative daylight.  I was really enjoying it!

There are a few things that I learnt with head-torch running.  First, you really want the wide-angle adapter in position for general heath running.  This little bit of plastic goes over the front of the light and spreads the light out wider (reducing the intensity in the process).  When it’s really dark, you don’t need much light to see where you’re going, but it is much more useful to have the peripheral objects illuminated too rather than a bright spot in the middle.

Secondly, with the light so close to your eyes, you can’t really see shadows (as they fall immediately behind the object as you look at it).  This means you can’t really judge how big anything is jutting from the ground.  The net effect of this is to slow down your pace (at least for me on my first run).  I’ve heard people talk about running with a hand-torch as well, and I can understand why this would be useful now.

A tree.

A tree.

The angle you point the head-torch is quite important as well.  You want a different angle when running downhill than when running uphill, but I found that I didn’t want to adjust it too much on the run as it never seemed quite perfect after I’d touched it!

I did notice that this head-torch (the Petzl Tikka X2) – which has it’s batteries in the light unit at the front – had a tendency to bob a little as I ran.  You quickly get used to this, but I have heard that torches with a battery pack at the back of the head result in a significantly lighter front light unit which is more stable on the head.  As I’m just borrowing this torch, I’ll look at both types before I buy one for myself.

Back to the run – I had a great time running around the heath.  You have your own personal patch of daylight so it feels like you can run anywhere.  However, as I tend to direct by looking at reference points around me (trees etc) and you can’t see more than a metre or two either side of your running position, I did find myself getting lost more than once which is something to bear in mind when out with just your head-torch.

Overall though, I loved running with my own personal light.  I can certainly see this bringing more flexibility to my runs, not limiting me to “boring” road in the winter months but having the opportunity to add a bit of trail running in too.

I’ll update you when I get a torch of my own soon…

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3 thoughts on “First Headtorch Run: Upton Heath

    • Hi Jon. Thanks for that tip – I’ve had a quick look and ordered one! Last week I bought a Petzl MYO RXP which was considerably more expensive, and it’ll be interesting to compare the two.

  1. I’m sure the Petzl will be better, but as you say – will be interesting to compare.

    The other thing that looked good when I was investigating this was the GoMotion waist/sternum lights – US only I think, but Amazon will deliver them to the UK at a cost. Might help with the object perception issues you mentioned, if you don’t like holding a torch: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=bl_sr_sporting-goods?_encoding=UTF8&field-brandtextbin=GoMotion&node=3375251

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