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Runner Tales from the Trails: Night Shift

Night running is more than just a test of endurance—it's an invitation to explore the uncharted corners of your courage and the depths of your imagination. It is also a chance to play hide-and-seek with your sanity and question your life choices, while pretending you're not scared of the dark (it's ok. We won't tell).

The fear of encountering wildlife is a common theme in night running stories and sometimes, those fears are realized.

Jody D finds a feather disaster on her nighttime trail run at a Loco Race Series trail race.

Jody D.'s night jaunt through the Little Loco took a detour into a wilderness whodunit on Loop 3. All alone, no moonlight to guide her, not a bar of cell service in sight. She's chugging along when suddenly, she stumbles upon a bird that's seen better days—like, a lot better days. The poor thing's been turned into a feathered jigsaw puzzle.

Now, Jody's mind starts racing faster than her legs. Is this a fresh kill? An old crime scene? She doesn't have time to play detective, though. With a mental note to avoid eye contact with anything creeping in the bushes, she keeps her gaze fixed firmly on the trail. Because really, who needs that kind of eye-to-eye in the middle of a night run in the woods? Not Jody, that's for sure.

Navigating the night isn't just about avoiding the wildlife (or wild “thangs”); sometimes, it's the domesticated animals that catch you off guard.

Trail running volunteer finds himself stuck behind a cow while trying to get to his aid station.

Matt B.’s out there in the dead of night volunteering for a local event in the Auburn, Ca area, when he encounters the stealthiest of creatures: a cow. Yes, you read that right. There he was, navigating the darkness, when out of nowhere, a cow appears, as silent as a ninja. His advice to fellow runners? When you see a "livestock on the road" sign, take it slow. Because trust us, that cow has no plans to mooooove for anyone.

Two trail runners encounter saw whet owls out on the Lollipop Loop at Loco Race Series in Forest Ranch, Ca. They appeared to be levitating.

Linda L. and Savannah B. had a front row seat to an owl rave out on the infamous Loco Lollipop Loop. As they trotted along, they spotted a sea of bright yellow eyes hovering just above the ground. With each step, these mysterious orbs seemed to defy gravity, floating upwards like little forest spirits. Once closer they realized they were engulfed in a parliament of saw-whet owls, having their own nocturnal hootenanny.

Two trail runners hallucinate while running an ultra race Rio Del Lago, in Auburn, Ca. They thought they saw a bunch of Chucky Dolls, but they actually saw mountain lion eyes.

David L was pacing a runner at RDL and while they were deep in the zone. Around mile 63, out of nowhere, a horde of cackling Chucky Dolls descends upon them. Yes, you heard that right—Chucky Dolls, with their tiny demonic laughs, giving chase in the dead of night.

In a scene straight out of "Runners vs. Wild," David's friend nearly scales him like a tree in sheer terror. They book it to the next aid station, hearts pounding, only to discover the true culprits: mountain lions had been spotted in that area (apparently wearing striped shirts and wielding tiny butcher knives). So, the next time you're spooked by a rustle in the bushes, just remember—you are likely safe from Chucky dolls…but not red headed mountain lions. You’re welcome.

Two trail runners run at nighttime at the Rocky Racoon ultra marathon. The pacer sleeps on the trail as the trail runner has one running shoe up on the sleeping runner and wishes the sleeping runner who is pacing him would wake up.

Todd L.'s Rocky Raccoon 100 miler took a turn for the unexpected when his pacer decided to take an impromptu nap around mile 85. It was nighttime after all. What else was there to do than sleep?! Luckily, as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon, his pacer snapped out of his dreamland detour and helped Todd secure his second 100-mile finish. And to think, Todd is usually the sleep runner!

Trail runner hallucinates out on the trail while running the Loco Race Series "Little Loco". She thinks she sees a ghost runner, wiht no legs, wearing neon clothes from the 80's.

Jacqi L.'s nocturnal jaunt at Loco Hundo 2021 turned into an episode of "Ghost Runners of the 80s." She's experienced her fair share of creepy trail tales, but nothing topped the night she encountered the legendary "Spirit of Loco”. She was almost home free, a stone's throw from Loco Base Camp, when out of the shadows glides a spectral runner, decked out in neon gear and missing one minor, but very important, detail—his legs!

As they raced toward the river's edge, Jacqi faced a spooky standoff: it was either her or the ghostly jogger taking a plunge. Spoiler alert: Jacqi's still here to tell the tale, so take that, Floating Running Man!

Jacqi's pro tip for night running newbies? Embrace the dirt nap—it's your best defense against midnight madness on the trails.

Now, it's your turn to share your own twilight tales in the comments. Have you ever encountered something that made your heart race faster than your legs? Dodged cows in the dark? Or perhaps you've found a moment of unexpected peace under the stars? Drop your stories in the comments below and let's revel in the wild, wonderful world of night running together.

Until next time, keep your headlamps bright, your steps light, and your spirit Loco. Happy trails, night owls!

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