I have a bit of history with this race which is worth sharing first. I entered this in its first year, 2 years ago and ended up “winning” the race only to be disqualified when it became apparent that I (along with c20 others out of a race of 100) had missed one of the checkpoints on the route. A mixture of poor signage and judgement on my behalf caused me to have a short lived celebration. I can cope with not winning but I don’t like not being recognised as finishing a race, so I had unfinished business with the race!
Fast forward a couple of years and I entered the Kielder Dark Skies again. This time as part of my preparation for the Menorca Ultra Marathon held in May. This was my second marathon distance of the year after Glentress last month and a good yardstick for judging my endurance.Kielder Reservoir is the largest man-made lake in Northern Europe situated in Northumberland and also a designated dark skies area with a complete absence of artificial light giving fantastic views of the stars if clouds stay away. The race follows a well-established track all the way around the reservoir, which I think people may assume equals a flat route. However in total there is 2500 feet of ascent so it is best categorised undulating/hilly! With 350 people entered this year (hitting the cap) this is definitely a route I’d thoroughly recommend if you get lucky as we did this year. No clouds, no moon so the stars came out in en-mass with the race beginning at dusk.
I began running with a front group of 5 who went out very quickly in the early miles, too quickly I thought for the undulating terrain. Sure enough by mile 6 we were down to 3 and by mile 12 it was just myself and one other who was very fast on the downhill but visibly slower on the inclines.
I bided my time till halfway and then overtook on a climb putting a couple of 6 minute-something miles in. With my headtorch now on full beam the second half of the marathon was a case of managing my pace and being completely paranoid that at any moment I would be caught; keeping me on a decent clip.I finished the race first in 03:07 which also meant a course record for the event. Redemption for my mistakes two years ago and also chuffed to bits to register my first ever race victory at this distance. Event details here: http://www.trailoutlaws.com/dark-skies-kielder.php
I’m back in Kielder in just over a week for a 50 mile ultra during the day time, but I’d much rather experience the dark skies once more! I’d recommend pencilling this in as the have both a 14 miler and a 26.5 miler on the same weekend to choose from.