I have a wee secret to share.
I'm a little embarassed to mention it actually.
You will probably laugh.
I am supposed to be a grown up after all.
I'm afraid of the dark.
(There! Now you know!)
Not the dark inside my house.
I can still manage to function inside during an electricity cut :)
The dark outside.
The intensity of the night shadows in my garden
pales in comparison to the intensity of my grim fear of them.
Logically I tell myself that there is no dracula, no werewolf
waiting behind the trees to snare me and drag me away into its lair...
Maybe I've seen too many horror movies. Maybe my imagination is too over active. Whatever the reason, I've never felt comfortable wandering around my own house, or anywhere else for that matter, alone in the dark.
Every time I have ever raced non-stop 24/24, it has always been with a team. Any suggestions of the team splitting to search for a marker at night were always met with virulent objections from the wee blonde thing at the back (mmmmmoi!!). Bad enough it was being the last in line… What if I disappeared, was engulfed in the dark… Never to be seen again???
So what made me volunteer to run 21 kilometres through the mud, in the rain and cold, not to mention a little fog, alone last Saturday NIGHT?
You want the truth?
It wasn't courage. Originally I didn't realise I would be running alone. I thought two of us would be collecting the race trail markers and making sure there were no stragglers on the course. And so it was for 7 kilometres - until the 20k and 46k race split into their respective courses and I veered to the right into the deep, dark forest alone, 20mts behind the last racer on the 1st half of the 46k trail that went directly past my own country cottage.
My how welcoming that little front door looked…
Never more so!
It was 7.30pm by then and I had been running softly for an hour. The night before had been full moon so the trail should've been lit up plain as day. Were it not for the heavy rain clouds, that would surely have been the case.
Over hill and dale, aside lake and river, through muddy fields, the bordering thorny thickets scratched insistently at my clothes like witches' claws. No one was behind me. No racers, no markers, no race controllers. The race controllers I had given leave to return to base, the markers from behind me were clutched safely under my arms ready to pass on to another controller at a further control point, I knew not when, nor where. Actually, I did know where, but I was too petrified to stop and look at my map. My headlamp being the only lonely beacon left on the landscape, each time I paused to untie the race markers from the boughs of branches, fences or electrical pylons, I felt like a target. For the next hour it seemed the darkness was pursuing me and gaining on my stumbling body minute by minute.
I could barely feel the rain pelting down my front. The cold of the incoming fog was nothing compared to the cold in my heart. After a particularly gruelling climb the length of a slippery and muddy field where the markers were so far entrenched into the mud I nearly fell trying to pull them out, two glimmering eyes peered out of the darkness at me. With my heart in my mouth - I continued moving forward, muttering to myself as I progressed, "FOR GOODNESS SAKE ANGE! YOU'RE 40 YEARS OLD!!! Joan of Arc lead an army into battle when she was but a girl!"
You can tell we're doing medieval history in homeschooling huh ;-) "What's your problem??" As I reached the top and the edge of another wood the fox skirted off to the protection of the trees.
Who's scared of who??
I think that's what liberated me. That poor, scared fox. All of a sudden it was like I had been scared of the 'green pants with no body inside 'em.' (In case you don't know my favourite Dr Seuss story - I've added a little animation video from YouTube below)
Then a whole new world of adventure opened up for me. The countryside I so love by day took on new shapes and forms in the dark. The fog gently enveloped me in her folds and cooled the sweat on my brow. The rain washed away my worry. The trees no longer threatened me with their shadows for those same shadows hid those to whom I was a threat. The darkness behind me was no longer rushing to engulf me, but sinking further behind. There was nothing but the sound of my own breathing in my ears.
Peace.My hearfelt congratulations go out to those who continued on for the full 46 kilometres. The last person to finish the course arrived after 3am. I raced into the welcoming light of the Abbaye de Sainte Marie du Desert, and a home made hot soup from my friends the organisers, at 10pm, after only 3.5 hours running (and stopping and running and stopping). No one was left on the first half of the course. That part of the countryside was at peace.
These were the trophies I made for the winners.
But really, the finisher is the winner.
Next year I want to train and do the whole 46k alone in the dark.
Just to see if I can still win over myself.
Just to see if I can still win over myself.