It’s always nice to go for a run round Moors Valley Country Park. Whether it’s a steady, scenic trail run or a Saturday morning parkrun blowout, it’s great for a looped, woodland route. Running there in the dark though… well… that’s an entirely different matter. That takes a little more courage and bit more nous.
Luckily Stu Nicholas has plenty of that though and he was looking to experience it at the Dark Valley Half Marathon event which was put on by White Star Running. That meant donning a head torch and some high viz gear to head off into the woods to race along the trails and pathways.
It wasn’t the first time Stu had raced in the dark though. He’d done the Roseland August Trail Plague race twice before, which is 100k. That event starts at midnight so does entail running through the night. In his last appearance in that race, Stu suffered a few nasty falls which set him back a fair bit.
He still went on to complete the race both times though, managing to overcome every hurdle that came his way and showing incredible resolve. He hopefully wouldn’t need to go to quite those lengths in the Dark Valley Half Marathon.
White Star Running events are all about running for the fun of it and generally just enjoying being out in the open air and keeping fit. That’s all well and good, but one thing’s for sure, and that’s if Stu Nicholas is in it, then he’s in it to win it!
The conditions on the night were wet, muddy and windy but that was pretty standard protocol for a White Star event and that’s how most the participants like it. Stu soon found his rhythm with a fast first mile at 5:45. Going through the second mile in 6:03, he then faced a slight incline for the next mile and a half.
That resulted in a 6:19 and another 6:03 before he headed back down the slope. Putting in a 5:50 for his next mile, there was then another incline that came into play on the sixth mile. He went through that in 6:22 before putting in a 6:14 and a 6:01 for his next couple of miles.
The ninth mile contained a couple of inclines and Stu registered a 6:35 for that one before going on to clock a 6:09 for his tenth mile. He now just had 5k left to go. The 11th mile was primarily downhill and he got through that in 6:02 before tackling the final incline of note on the 12th mile.
He managed a 6:35 for that split before finishing on the descent for his last mile and a bit. Ending with a 6:15, he then upped the pace to 6:01 for the final 0.12 of a mile. That gave him a finishing time of 1 hour 20 minutes and 58 seconds, which was three minutes quicker than anyone else in the field.
His closest rival was actually Ellie Monks, a woman from Southampton AC and she made it to the line in exactly 1 hour 24 minutes. There was then quite a long gap before Steve Kellaway arrived to take 3rd place in 1:34:06.
The 2nd placed female was a long way back and that was Lucy Wells. She went over the line in 1:50:28 which put her 12th overall.
Stu’s elevation gain for the run was 623ft and his average pace was 6:10 per mile. His wife Anna is also really enjoying her running at the moment and she does a lot of the races Stu does. Finishing 23rd overall, she was 5th fastest female in a time of 2 hours 2 minutes and 31 seconds.
There 87 people in total taking on the Half Marathon distance, with a further 377 runners tackling the Dark Valley 10km race. Bournemouth AC member Nathan Mearns was one of them and he ran well to secure 3rd place in a time of 44:35.
The only two people to better that were Lee Thomas, who was competing against Stu in the Purbeck Trail Series, and Tom Cawley of Littledown Harriers. Those two were way out front but it was Lee who picked up the victory in the end, recording a time of 40:13. Thomas reached the line 30 seconds later in 40:43.
Nathan enjoys his trail races and regularly competes for the club at the cross country meetings. Racing in the dark though might just have been a new experience for him, but if so, he certainly handled it well.
The next big race on this list for Stu was the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon which he does every year. It’s a race he has a very good success rate in as well, winning it the last two years as well as a previous year before that. Could he make it a hat trick though this time round?