In my younger years, I used to love doing my runs at night. Back before I was married, complete with kids and responsibilities, I’d work until late and lace up and head out around midnight. And, since I was a waiter/manager in a restaurant, I didn’t have to worry about being up until 10:00 AM at the earliest.
Running when most of the known world has locked themselves in for the night offers a host of benefits, the main one being the solitude that comes with car-less roads. For me, few things can compare to running down a lonely road, the path lit only by the stars and moon. The dimly lit trees appear to be mere silhouettes and occasional water on the asphalt simulates mirrored holes and the only sounds that I hear are my breathing, my feet hitting the road surface and the buzzing and crackling of the occasional overhead power line. And, with the cooler air, I feel like I can run tirelessly forever. In the midst of this, my mind is freed to wanders into some really cool places. Much of the time, isolation can be a bad thing, but I find the total isolation of a nighttime run to be surreal.
Fast forward to present day: being a suburb dweller, most of the places that I run offer me the daytime choice of either braving it on shoulder of the road or playing a game of “Dodge the uneven sidewalk surface” — neither of which is optimal. Lately though, because of an increasingly busy daytime schedule, I’ve had to fit my runs in after the sun has gone down. And, because of my past experiences, I was initially really looking forward to this. Unfortunately, my of my night-time runs of late bear little resemblance to the runs of old.
Because I’m older now and supposed to be more responsible, heading out the door at midnight or later isn’t practical. Now, I’m leaving anywhere from 6:30 to 8:00PM, which still fits nicely into the schedule of rush-hour traffic. Instead of silence, I hear cars, motorcycles and the occasional siren. Instead of silhouettes of trees, I see headlights, tail lights and cyclists, illuminating the space around them with ultra-bright LED’s. And, as I wear a reflective vest, it seems that quite a few drivers feel the need to investigate this shiny object that they’re approaching. So, out of curiosity, the highbeams go on, blinding me and taking away any ability that I have to see the raised sidewalk, mailbox, tree, bush or garbage can that I’m about to run into. Fortunately, I’ve never actually run into anything, but I’ve come close on quite a few occasions — tonight I missed a thick tree branch by what seemed like inches.
Once I get off of the main roads and onto the surface streets, things improve dramatically. For a brief few moments, I again see the silhouettes and hear my breath; my brain starts to wander in a multitude of directions and, once again, I’m at peace.
It’s times like this that I’m darn glad that I’m a runner. Sure, there are aches, pains and weird schedules, but, for me, times like this make running fun. So much of the time, running isn’t enjoyable, I find that it can be a task, another thing that I have to fit into my schedule — in short, don’t always love running. During the cool stillness of the night though, I find myself brought right back to why I love running.