Date: 09.09.2021 Time: 0:33:23 Distance: 7km Elevation: 351m

After having loads of fun at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival in 2020 I returned in 2021 for a repeat. The first race of the weekend is the 7k night trail, with 351m of accent.

The route goes along the flat road for 1km, then it rises pretty steeply for the next 3km over rough trails, before coming even more steeply down the hill for 2km and then back along the 1km road section. Although it’s only a 7k race, the elevation gain means that this is a seriously tough one.

I had pretty high hopes for the race, having come 3rd last year. The main goal was to beat my time from last year, and a better position would have been a nice treat too. After one stunning sunset on the walk to the event venue the dark set in and headlamps were turned on.

Although it’s a really well organised event, there aren’t a huge number of runners in the race(s), so there wasn’t a queue for the loos, or a long wait in the starting pens before we began. However, they do check everyone has good trails shoes on before entering the starting pen, which really sets the tone for the hard trails to come…

The first 1km was just a loop out of the stadium and onto the trails, with nothing major to repot. There were two guys out in front of me at the 1km point, but once the gradient kicked in I caught them and pushed onwards. Given the brutal downhill (and my lack of experience running on that terrain) in the second half of the race I knew that I had to push hard up the hill and then accept I would be caught on the downhill.

And so it went; I gave absolutely everything I had going up the hill. Woah was it hard.

The gradient gets gradually steeper as the hill goes on, so continuing to run gets harder and harder. I was able to avoid walking for a little longer than last year, for a total of around 300m during the uphill. Thankfully I remembered a lot of the course from the previous year, so I was able to know roughly how much pain was left.

By the top of the hill I knew I had a reasonable gap between myself and 2nd place because I couldn’t see his headlamp anymore.

As we came down the hill the game changed completely. The rough terrain and steepness of the hills means I couldn’t get into a rhythm at all. Each step was a challenge to slow my momentum enough so that I didn’t go flying head over heels. I was hyper aware that I was being caught by the guys behind, but the question was simply if I would descend fast enough to hold them off.

At around halfway down the hill I could start to see the light of 2nd place’s headlamp behind me. I pushed harder. The light got closer. I pushed harder. With every step I felt the light get a little closer and I felt the pressure a little more, but amazingly I managed to hold onto the lead as we come off the bottom of the hill.

As we pulled off the trail and into the final 1km I knew the gap was down to just a few seconds. I always try not to look back at the runner chasing me in these situations, but the benefit of the headlamps meant I was able to see that I was pulling away from him by the receding light. But it’s not over until it’s over so I had to drive all the way to the line to hold onto the lead.

The last push was really hard; shown by my HR of 189 and my face as I crossed the line.

The whole race was made all the better when Caro crossed the line in 2nd place (also a little faster than she ran last year). It was really nice of the whole team to stick around for the award ceremony too.

The Night Trail even had prizes this year, which was a nice surprise. I now own a cool pair of poles.

Walking home I felt a mix of emotions. Primarily I was proud of a faster time and to have won the race. But I was also very aware that I had 24hours to recover before my main event of the weekend – the 85K…