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Runners challenge the night in Dark Stride race series

Nathan Matsui is accustomed to running in the dark. An avid runner and triathlete, the 36-year-old Huntington resident regularly takes to the trails in the early morning hours with only a headlamp as his running mate. And though he competes year-round in 5-kilometer and other distance races, Matsui says nothing could have prepared him for the Dark Stride “Star Wars”-themed race series that kicked off Aug. 5 in Cedar Creek Park in Seaford.

Each race in the three-part series takes place at night and requires runners to wear headlamps and choose between a 3.1-mile and 6.2-mile course.

“There is a special energy and excitement that comes with running at night,” says Matsui, who also signed up for episodes 2 and 3 in the series, taking place Friday, Sept. 16, in Lido Beach and Oct. 28 in East Meadow. “During the first race, Episode 1, I can’t forget looking back during the first mile and seeing hundreds of headlights bouncing around in the dark.”

ABOUT THE EVENT

The Dark Strides series was produced and mapped out by Corey Roberts of Race Awesome, a Baldwin-based fitness competition company, in conjunction with Nassau County Parks. It is the only dark run event on Long Island, Roberts says. Racers are encouraged to come in “Star Wars” attire.

Episode 2 will start on the road, take runners through a campground, down a boulevard, over sand dunes, along a moonlit beach and through a field. Episode 3 meanwhile, involves running around a body of water and along a winding path under a dense canopy of trees. All races are open to runners as young as 5 and will end under the glow of the Dark Strides finisher arch. Course routes are available online ahead of the races.

MAKING A NIGHT RUN

Competing in the dark during the inaugural race was no more difficult than running in daylight, Matsui says, which he attributes partly to the nature of the series. The Dark Run races take the main emphasis off competing and instead focus on having fun, he says.

“Plenty of memories came flooding back of running around as a kid at night, chasing friends and playing manhunt,” Matsui says. “It was also very cool to see fellow runners dressed up in ‘Star Wars’ gear.”

Charles Dietrich, 29, of Stony Brook, considers himself “a bit green” when it comes to running, having taken up the sport just last year. Dietrich finished his first half marathon last May and has run at least one other race each month since. Dietrich says the night element was what drew him to the Dark Stride series, whose inaugural event was slightly harder than other races he has competed in.

“You don’t see as many people as you usually would so I would say that you’d have to be OK running alone in the dark if it paced out that way,” Dietrich says. “Otherwise, pace with someone and stick to their side. Keeping your head up for navigation is key. It’s easy to miss a sign or light when pressing hard, so being more aware is crucial.”

The Aug. 5 race drew 220 runners of different skill levels and ages. Roberts anticipates at least 1,000 people will compete over the course of the series.

So far, the youngest and oldest recorded competitors are 6 and 63 years old, respectively.

Registration for each race starts at $25. Participants must register at least two days before the event.

Dark Strides

WHEN | WHERE 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at Nickerson Beach, 880 Lido Blvd., Lido Beach; 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Eisenhower Park, East Meadow. Advance registration required.

INFO darkstrides.com

COST Lido Beach: $33 5k/$49 10k ($25/$35 youth and high school). Prices increase Sept. 13. East Meadow: $29 5k/$44 10k ($22/$30 youth and high school). Prices increase Sept. 15.

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