Steph's top tips for running a night trail race


To help you with your preparations we asked a previous illuminator winner, Steph Provan, to provide some advice for a fun and successful night trail race:

1. Test your kit

Make sure your shoes, clothes, head torch, bum bag/rucksack are all comfortable and you have been out a few times wearing and carrying what you're planning to take on race night. You don’t want to find out 20 minutes into the race that your new rucksack is uncomfortable and your head torch is too loose! Remember to check your head torch batteries. [For more info on illuminator equipment click here]


2. Get out in the dark

It's important to get used to going out in the dark with your head torch, so when the nights start to draw in plan some evening runs/walks either on your own or with some friends. You'll be amazed at how a familiar route can seem totally different in the dark. It’s great fun exploring your local routes with your head torch!


3. Taper

You won’t get much fitter in the week or two before the race and you are better to go into it feeling fresh and raring to go. If you try and cram in loads of training just before the race your body won’t have time to recover and you will just be tired. If you have done the training, trust that you will be ready to race and enjoy an easy week or two.


4. Remember to eat and drink

It's a long way and even the fastest runners are out for quite a long time, so remember to take food and drink. Don’t take anything you haven’t tried on training runs; stick with what you know your body likes.


5. Pace yourself

In a long race like the Illuminator there is no point going off too fast, as you will pay for it later in the race. Try and set yourself an optimistic, but realistic, target and pace yourself accordingly.


6. Stay motivated

A great way to stay motivated throughout the race is to set yourself a personal goal (or goals) such as running the whole route, running the flats, running the last hill or setting yourself a target time. I find having a time I would like to achieve really motivates me to keep pushing when I'm starting to tire. Racing your friends can also be good fun and help keep you motivated!


7.Have fun!

Enjoy the atmosphere of racing in the dark in a fantastic location. It may be dark but you still know you are running somewhere special when you take part in the Illuminator.


Good luck with your training and see you there!


Steph Provan

(2015 female Illuminator winner and 2018 contender)


Mums on the Run: Unleash the Power of Buggy Running


The winning female of the 2016 Illuminator Race reveals how to juggle running and childcare

Sally Wallis on course to be 1st female at the 2016 Illuminator.,

Returning to fitness after having kids is the ambition of many a sleep-deprived Mum.  But balancing the relentless needs of young children with a seemingly simple desire to get some exercise is no mean feat.  Faced at first with endless feeds, broken nights, and unpredictable naps, the obstacles to exercise seem to only increase as children grow, with play dates, toddler tantrums and no naps at all by age three (if you’re lucky). Once the kids are in bed, many of us are too exhausted to even contemplate an evening run, while the pull of the sofa is strong…


If this sounds familiar, then Buggy Running may be just what you need to get your mojo back. Buggy what? Hear me out: the phenomenon of running while pushing your little one in a buggy might just change your life. Indeed, the women who placed first and second in the 2016 Illuminator Night Trail Race are both committed buggy runners, clocking up tens of miles behind the buggy each week. And I’m one of them.


It grew out of a need to exercise, and a wish to use my time more efficiently. As a full-time mother, my running ‘windows’ were restricted to evenings (yawn) and weekends when my other half could pick up the childcare. There had to be an easier way. So I started increasing the pace a little on buggy walks with my two-year-old, and the rest is history.


Buggy running with my third son began when he was a few weeks old. I gradually upped the pace and mileage as I grew stronger (and he, heavier). Timing and spontaneity were everything in the early days – as soon as he was fed and looking sleepy he was bundled into the buggy and my trainers were on. He's now almost 2 and having been raised on the sport, is pretty much happy to be either awake or asleep on our runs.


Buggy running works for me. I get exercise while looking after my son, he gets fresh air, a chance to spot some sheep, and sometimes a nap: everyone’s a winner. It can work for you too. Aboyne-based Sara Henry, who finished second in the 2016 Illuminator run, took up buggy running by accident, just last year. She often runs 20 miles a week with her three-year-old, and is fully converted.


“I was out for a buggy walk with my 18-month old when the weather turned foul and we had to make a dash for home,” she explains. “It was an altogether different running experience, and my arms ached a bit the next day, but I was keen to persevere, and encouraged by Sally’s buggy runs. Now it’s a daily event – we squeeze in a buggy run between work, school and nursery pick ups.


She lists the pros and cons of being a Mum-on-the-run: “My son loves spotting tractors and animals while I obviously get the buzz of exercise. There are days he grizzles a bit, the weather changes within minutes, and a chilly headwind isn't much fun, but it's all character building, and great resistance training.


“As someone who loves running, but was struggling to fit it in with young children, discovering buggy running has been a revelation. It's a great workout with the added benefit of your little one for company, both enjoying the fresh air and great outdoors. And when you do get the chance to take to the hills solo you really appreciate it!”


So long, sofa! It’s time to take your multi-tasking to the extreme and join us. Lace up your trainers, bung your little one in the buggy and head out to your usual stomping ground. Only this time, pick up the pace a little. Before you know it, you’ll be buggy running. And for added motivation, why not enter the Illuminator Race? You’ll be super-fit in time for the event in October. And just think how easy it’ll be without a buggy.



My Top Ten Buggy Running Tips:


  1. Baby steps: Don’t be too ambitious to start – begin slowly and aim for 1-2km, with walking intervals if required, and build up gradually.
  2. Mind the bumps: Opt for smooth surfaces such as tarmac - you don’t want to be jolting your wee one around, especially if they’re under 6 months. Aim for quieter roads with less traffic.
  3. Timing is everything: Pick a time of day that works for your little one. Post-afternoon-nap is probably a bad idea. Time it around a nap if they sleep well in the buggy.
  4. Dress appropriately: Wear gloves in winter - there’s no stuffing your hands in pockets with buggy running. Remember your little one isn’t moving like you are, so he/she needs more layers, especially in colder months.
  5. Distraction is key: take snacks and toys to keep them going and minimise fuss.
  6. Time out: Be prepared to stop for a break if they’re getting fed up. You may welcome the rest!
  7. Make it routine: the more often you go, the quicker your baby will get used to buggy runs, and enjoy the outing as much as you do, so aim for a few runs a week.
  8. Style guide: Experiment with using one or two hands on the push bar - you may find on straight sections it’s easier to use one hand and the other can swing naturally as it would in a buggy-free run.
  9. Top gear: once you’re firmly bitten by the Buggy-Running-bug, it may be worth investing in some good gear for the best buggy running experience. Thule does some great running buggies https://www.thule.com/en-gb/gb/strollers/jogging-strollers as does Bob Gear: http://www.bobgear.com/strollers/ironman
  10. Set yourself a challenge by entering a running event
  11. Most important of all - have fun!


By Sally Wallis (www.sallywalliscopywriting.com), March 2017


© Firetrail Ltd 2018


Firetrail Ltd, 17 Balnagowan Drive, Aboyne, AB34 5GT, Scotland, UK, Company No. SC594765