The guys who went up north last month for the 200km relay race had such a good experience that they wanted to replicate it, on a smaller level, for the rest of us who could not go.
They designed a local relay race, using trails in the Bet Shemesh area, for a 50km race to be run during the night, concluding with a BBQ dinner.
We split into four teams of 4-5 runners per team. We began the run at 8pm, and it was estimated to take us until about 1am, at which time we would have the BBQ.
The various legs of the race were split into an average of about 8km per leg. The legs differed mostly in terrain and difficulty.
The first leg was about 9+km from Nofei Aviv up to Beit Natif and down to the entrance of RBS. The second half of each team waited at the ending point to begin the next leg. While each leg was being run, the other runners would drive to the next meeting point. The Beit Natif run was the longest of all the legs. From there, the second leg began, running back to nofei Aviv and up to the beginning of the Yishi trail.
The first runners then took over for the third leg, running the whole 8km length of the Yishi trail. The drivers met them at the other end of the trail, driving all the way around to get to Tal Shachar. The runners switched and ran back the whole 8km to the beginning of the Yishi trail.
Leg 5 was from the Yishi trail up to Tzora, to the Retorno complex on the top of the hill, and back down to Derech Ha'Psalim. The sixth, and final, leg of the run was from Derech Ha'Psalim until Presidents Forest. This was the only leg that was run completely on the road.
the run was great, an exciting and interesting adventure. Running in the dark, with almost complete silence, is a completely different experience. The moon was not yet full, so while it provided some light, as did the distant lights of various cities (like Bet Shemesh and other small villages), it was still mostly dark. At times you could hear animals rustling in the bushes nearby, as we disturbed their habitat. Jackals could be heard nearby on parts of the run. We heard owls hooting. Perhaps the most exciting part was when Daniel, my running partner, and I enjoyed a military escort for part of our run back on the Yishi trail (leg #4).
Part of the Yishi trail is up against the edge of a large army base. At certain points along the trail, the fence of the base is practically right up against the trail. We must have looked a bit suspicious running in the dark alongside an army base with headlights on our head. They must have thought we were either spies or infiltrators looking for a good point to cut through the fence.
So as we were running, we noticed an army jeep following us for a bit (on their side of the fence). At a certain point, the trail was right up by the fence - just a few meters away. The jeep stopped and a soldier called out to us to ask what we were doing there. He told us we need to get moving and get out of there. We told him we were in the middle of a race and were trying to get out of there as fast as we could! He followed us for a few more minutes, and then disappeared.
The last leg of the run was probably the most difficult. First of all, we were all stretched to our limits already. It was already after midnight when we began the last leg. We were tired, hungry, sore, etc. Second, it was all highway running, and all uphill, including the last 2km being an extremely difficult uphill to Presidents Forest next to Highway 44.
We finished it just before 1am, exactly as expected. I felt bad for our A&B runners that they had us on their team. they are good runners and did not deserve to end in last place just because of us (the C&D runners), but those are the breaks.
When we made it to Presidents Forest, we collapsed into the BBQ that was just getting under way. We had salads and meats coming non-stop for the next hour and a half, along with shooting the breeze and chilling.
It was really a great experience, and if we do it again, I am signing up!