It Was a Long 5 Miles on the Green Loop of my Ragnar Trail Race

Trail running at night may not be my thing

My one and only trail Ragnar relay race was in 2017. It’s an annual event in Richmond held in Pocahontas State Park in April. It was 36 hours of little sleep, lots of running, and time with great friends. 

That particular year, Mother Nature decided to bless us with some early summer weather. Temperatures climbed into the upper 80s during the day accompanied by Virginia’s typical humidity. And although it was cooler at night, the air was just as thick.

We each had to run one of 3 loops once, all technical, and with one loop surely to be in the middle of the night. This was the loop I was most anxious about. 

Relaxing between runs at the Ragnar trail relay event. They had lots of hammocks and coffee! Photo by author.

Fortunately, I kind of won the lottery. With a 7-mile, 6-mile, and 5-mile loop, somehow I managed to draw the right straw. My night run was the shortest loop. 

This is how I ended up setting an alarm for 1:30 AM. Not that I got any sleep waiting for my turn to run, anyway. But I did try!

My estimated start time was around 2:00 AM. I made my way to the exchange area and waited my turn. 

My person arrived, the group bib was donned, my headlamp lit, and my running flashlight engaged. It was time to begin my night run.

Starting the run didn’t feel so scary. I could light my path far ahead with my headlamp, and I could illuminate my feet with the flashlight. 

However, pretty soon, I seemed to be all alone. I think I ran about a mile and a half solo, and in that time, I began to doubt if I was even on the right trail! I did finally see a green flag, indicating that I was, gratefully, still on my intended path.


My feet landed on something that was definitely not inorganic. 

Oh, shit! Was that a frog? Oh, no! 

I never intended to harm the wildlife. And as this race coincided with my first official weekend as a vegan, I felt extra guilty. But I kept going. 

Suddenly I became aware of shadows flying toward my headlamp. 

Moths. It’s just moths, I tell myself.

But then there was something larger coming after those moths. 

Bats. Those are definitely bats, I realize. 

Of course. I’m providing an avenue for a feast for the bats. The moths, attracted to my lights, with the bats swooping in for a tasty snack after them.


I try not to think about it anymore. I tell myself I will feel better once I see another human.

Finally, this happened. How am I running faster than anyone else out here? I ask myself. But I’m grateful for the interaction, as I was really wondering if I was losing my mind or lost in the woods until that point. 

Running solo on strange trails was an invitation for my mind to wander to places it shouldn’t and for the onset of doubt in my abilities to navigate. 

I was never happier to see a finish line in my life!

Thrilled to see my teammate, I happily transferred the bib to her and made my way back to our tent. It was time to try to get some sleep so I could repeat this process in the daylight in a few hours!

My night running experience was weird enough and the lack of sleep was disturbing enough that I decided Ragnar was a one and done for me.

My shirt expressed exactly how I felt about running after the event! Photo by author.


Lead photo is with my team after we finished our runs. Photo by author.

Have you ever done a night trail run or a Ragnar relay? I’d love to hear about it!

As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Published by annecreates

I am a physical therapist, wife, mom, runner, artist, and vegan. I'm passionate about helping others find wellness, speaking about the human experience, and in fighting for social justice. Assistant Coach for the Sports Backers Marathon Training Team. Current ambassador for: Boco Gear, SaltStick, SPIbelt, Goodr, Noxgear, and Switch4Good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: