Friday, 16 September 2011

Energizer Night Run, Antwerp.

Wow!  This was amazing.  A quite magical experience which I struggle to describe.  Certainly pictures can't do it justice.

As a warm up for the lunacy tomorrow, I decided I would still go to this event and I am so glad that I did.  I arrived quite late (shocker) so had to get pick up my bib in a bit of a rush.    With the bib was a headtorch and a shirt that we were all encouraged to wear for the event.  Rebelling against my usual non-conformist instincts, I complied.

It was a dry, cool evening which promised a pleasant experience and there were lots of people there.  In the east side of Antwerp, there's a reasonably large park where the 9k run would take place.  Some Belgian celeb was exhorting the crowds and lots of up-tempo pop meant that having a conversation was impossible.  But the excitement built up, there was a countdown and then the race began.

Or did it.

It seemed to take forever to get to the start and when I did, I understood why the long delay.  The start gate was designed to let people through only three or four abreast.  And, actually, this was genius.  And here's why:

Imagine a woodland park with many winding paths.  It is dark with only the glow of distant streetlights lending a faint orange colour to the clouds above.  After the excitement and jostling in the well lit start area, you pass into the blackness of the woods with the ground at your feet lit by your own headtorch.  The back of every headtorch also has a flashing red LED so looking up, all you can see is blinking lights like some kind of giant video display dying as it shakes itself apart in the night.

But then you look to the side and you see the progress of those ahead and behind.  A stream of weaving bobbing lights, steady and white or flashing and red, trace out the path of the thousands of others who are making their way through the same course.

It was quite simply magical.  Being right in the middle, I feel I got the greatest benefit from the experience as there were always the streams of lights from those before and behind for the whole course.  It was a timeless experience where I let myself be carried forwards by the pace of the crowd around me, not thinking at all about effort or pace.  All too soon it was over.

Amazing.  If you only ever do one footrace, try to make it one of these...