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Silva Explore More Tour UK 2018 – Queen Elizabeth Country Park

We sent one of our Ambassadors along to the Silva Explore More Tour UK 2018 – take it away, Al….

Back at the Endure 24 race weekend I’d heard from the guys at Silva that they were planning to bring the concept of the ‘Explore More’ Tour of night runs to the UK in the Autumn of 2018. Tim Young, Silva UK Sales Manager, explains;

“The Explore More Tour is all about exploring new and challenging trails at night. The SILVA Explore More Tour nights are special runs: they are guided, they take in tough terrain and challenging trails. The latest generation of high powered running head torches are so good that you don’t have to be limited by darkness. The products we are running with this season are the SILVA Trail Runner 4, Cross Trail Ultra 5 and Exceed 2. We always finish up with a sticky bun and a hot drink and we invite a mix of industry people, athletes, ambassadors and event organisers” 

The first stop of the tour in 2018 was at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park in the South Downs National Park of Hampshire on fireworks night, there weren’t any bangs and flashes of the explosive type, but plenty of bright flashes from a gaggle of runners equipped with hyper-bright headtorches. 

QE Park is the venue for the next Maverick Dark race series on Saturday 24th November, where I’m planning on running the ‘long course’ race, so this more casual foray into the woods would hopefully serve as a good introduction to running there in the dark. Check out their site for more details. Silva will be at the races too with head torches to try out.

 We met up in the park main car park and straight away got on the coffee supplied out of the back of a cool Landrover Defender run by Brian from ‘HitchnHop’. The group was a great mix of trail running enthusiasts, all excited to be getting out on some great trails in the dark! Tim from Silva got everyone kitted up with the latest high tech headtorches. I donned an Exceed 2 light which boasted a maximum light output of 1500 lumens and an impressive minimum burn-time of 4 hours (@-5DegreesC, even better if it’s warmer!). The battery pack is a little chunky, but isn’t a problem to carry in a rucksack or technical vest, which is what most of the runners were doing. This approach does make the light on your head really nice and light though!

 After a quick intro to the lights from Tim and a run briefing from our guide Sam from Run With Karibu, who was in charge of making sure we all went in the right direction in the dark, we set off up into the park. Straight away it was clear that we weren’t lacking in light power, with the trail lit up like a stadium from the output of a dozen slightly car-like headlights! The first mile and a half were spent warming up nicely as we climbed steadily before hitting the first singletrack section. This where the running got interesting, with a bit of space between the runners the lights really showed their capabilities. I now had the Exceed 2 into max mode and the light it now put out allowed me to run as fast as I dared along the narrow, slightly greasy, rooty and leaf strewn trail. It still required 100% concentration to stay up right, but the feeling of speed as the trees whipped past in the dark was awesome! 

 We continued on stopping off for a quick spot of obstacle course play in the middle of the woods! An another stretch of climbing took us up to the high point of the run at just over 750ft. Now we were over in the back section of the country park which contains some of the lesser known but more technical trails! What followed simply wouldn’t have been possible at any sort of speed without the assistance of a lot of light… It was steep, loose, off-camber and rooty. Words don’t really do it justice, so check out the video (slightly epic music, but I think it deserves it!)…. It was a blast, such a cool feeling of zipping between the trees and even over a jump. The light was brilliant allowing me to pick out all the details on the trail in enough time to put my feet in the right place!

I was also getting a lot of confidence from the excellent Salomon Sense Ride shoes I was wearing (thanks to Scott at Alton Sports for the loan!). The Sense Rides were gripping plenty much everything, including the greasy chalk surfaces which are characteristic of the South Downs. The ability to put my foot down and know that it would most likely stay there coupled with the Exceed 2 light was a winning combination. The Sense Rides are also insanely comfortable to wear, plus they feel good on the road too, so all in all a great shoe. Definitely one on my Christmas list.

The remainder of the run was more gentle as we followed the South Downs Way and loop round back to the main car park, where great coffee buns and pastries awaited us! Everyone was buzzing and super impressed with what the Silva head torches enabled us to do in the dark. I can’t wait for the Maverick Dark race in a couple of weeks’ time!

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Buy the Trail Runner 4 headlight here

You can follow Al’s running achievements on Strava / Instagram Twitter.

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