After a great day spent climbing in the hot sun, we’re switching outfits and mindset just like the weather is about to. The evening has become cloudy, and we know from the forecast there will be rain cloaking the 7k night run at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival. We’re taking this as a warm up run for our mountain marathon, the day after tomorrow.
After running around a couple of blocks in the heart of Innsbruck – an involuntary warm up – we find our way to the event tent where we can pick up our bib numbers and leave a drop bag with dry clothes.
It’s getting darker and we’re starting to feel the excitement of the upcoming race. After some warm up stretches we’re ready to make our way into the crowd at the start line, just as the ominous clouds start to break into a drizzle.
The atmosphere is simply great. Everyone seems excited and ready for the Nighttrail to get started. The DJ is playing snippets of upbeat music from various decades, and everyone seems to be bouncing along. There is an older lady standing next to us at the start line and she joins in and dances with us too, and I feel like I’ve met an idol. I can only hope that at her age I’ll be standing at the start line for a race like this with my headtorch switched on, ready to tackle the base of a mountain in the dark!
I told myself to go slow, to save my legs for the marathon on Saturday, but when the race starts, perfectly timed with the rain, and the crowd sets off it’s easier said than done not getting swept up. I also find myself slightly trying to keep up with my friends Caro and Teresa, who chat away easily as they run off towards the bridge that takes us to the north side of the river Inn – the major river running through Innsbruck.
Once across it you almost immediately start the soon-to-be steep climb towards the Hungerburg. That is the beauty of Innsbruck, it’s jammed in a valley between huge mountains, so even from the city centre you’re a stone’s throw away from stunning climbs and views.
As soon as the trail hits a single track the running is reduced to a fast hike, and I’m secretly relieved. I’m still very much digesting my dinner from this evening and feel like I’ve gone much faster than intended to.
Through the dark it’s hard to tell how high you’re going or exactly at what pace, it’s easier to just stay with the flow of the runners around you. After some 200m ascent it levels out a bit and there is space to break into a run again. At some point the forest opens up and there is a clear view of the city lights twinkling below us on our right hand side.
It’s with relief for my belly that I can see from my GPS watch that we’ve run halfway, and the trail is soon mostly steep downhill. Some time ago I lost sight of Caro and Teresa, but just as the path got technical on a steep single track downhill I see them not to far ahead, thanks to some runners having missed a turn and a bunch of them following – as is easily done in the dark and the rain, when all is reduced to the blurry vision of what your head torch will light up.
Momentarily it gets crowded on the path as the faster runners run past, being back on track, and then it all evens out again. Before long we’re back on the bit of pavement leading us to the bridge again, and then it’s what you can call a home run for the finish line.
As a trail runner I think most of us really prefer the trail over pavement, but on this rainy evening I’m happy it means I’m almost at the finish line.
Very quickly it is over, I head to retrieve my drop bag and find Caro and Teresa past the finish line. Despite the rain and now much cooler temperature we’re all beaming. It’s been a fun run, and it has indeed been the perfect warm up both physically and mentally for Saturday.