With palms together,
I wish you all a Good Evening.
My normal wake time during the week is 4:00 AM. Today it was 3:30 AM. I woke without the aid of my alarm. It is this type of wakefulness which reminds me I am rested.
Like every other morning, I rise, sometimes reluctantly and prepare for a run. This morning with preparations complete, I opened the rear door of the house, stepped outside and onto the back porch. I triggered the motion sensor light and as every other morning, my eyes gazed the open lot behind my house; my field of vision limited to the distance the light is thrown through the darkness.
On this morning my eyes caught movement. I leaned forward and strained to see into the darkness where my eyes detected movement. My first thought was a skunk. We know all too well of their stealthy presence. My eyes scanned the darkness and back to the light. This time my eyes began to note a familiar shape; the shape of a fawn. My eyes continued to scan and they made out the form of a second fawn and then a doe.
I reached through the open entrance and snuffed the light. I sat down on the porch and for several minutes watched with curiosity and gratitude as the three enjoyed a breakfast of greens.
Glancing at my watch I knew the time had come to begin my run. I rose, started the timer on my watch and silently ran down the street; my path illuminated only by the torch affixed to a band around my head.
When I run, different thoughts flow through my head. They can be simple and complex; few and racing. This gentle morning I was grateful they were few. They were of solitude. They were of the silence through which I ran. They were of the peace which I felt when I watched the deer.
I hope you enjoyed your day and pleasant thoughts accompanied you throughout the day.
I am usually an early-bird runner. I (very grudgingly and groggily) get up and pound out a run as the sun rises so I don’t have to worry about fitting it for the rest of the day. But there are times when, um, my alarm “malfunctions” or my schedule just doesn’t allow for five miles at 5:30 a.m. When that happens, I used to just take a raincheck for the following day.
But recently, I ran nearly nine miles at 12:30 a.m. in a Ragnar Relay, and was reminded of how simultaneously peaceful and stimulating running at night can be. The motion is familiar, but everything else feels fundamentally different—even if I’m running my most tried-and-true route.
As I head out into the dark, my senses go into overdrive. It’s not just my eyes leading the way anymore. I smell things—hopefully scents like pine needles or a lasagna baking in my neighbor’s oven—more intensely. Even on busy streets, my ears rotate between three sounds: the in-and-out of my breath, the rhythm of my feet, and an overwhelming, lovely slice of quiet. I run through pockets of warm and cold air, which I rarely notice when I’m checking my GPS multiple times a mile. My eyes adjust more easily to the dark blanket than I would anticipate when I’m debating a run in the warmth of my kitchen, and, once I’ve been out there for a few minutes, the blackness turns to shades of gray. (I promise, it always seems darker from the inside than when you’re actually in it.)
Most of all, the darkness allows me to tune in, not out. It releases me of most expectations, and I’m free to just experience the run, step by step. Chasing the spotlight from my headlamp forces me to be exactly present, a perspective that can be so difficult to attain when running in daylight. Calculating remaining mileage or fixating on pace feels almost superficial. Instead, I naturally concentrate on the cool air on my skin, the stars—or if I’m lucky, the full moon—above, and the sensation that I’m supremely, deliciously alive.
When the sun goes down, good things can happen. But bad things can too, unfortunately, so here are a few nighttime running safety tips:
—Light yourself with a headlamp, reflective apparel, blinking lights, and hits of reflectivity on your clothes from a range of angles and positions: front, back, sides, upper body, lower body. Cars won’t be expecting you, so alert them brightly and in multiple ways of your presence.
—It’s a cliché for a reason: there is safety in numbers. Recruit a buddy—either the two- or four-legged type—to run with you.
—Go on the defense: run against traffic, behind cars at intersections, and avoid areas that might not be super safe.
—Tell or text somebody your route, and when you expect to be back.
—Carry your phone, and if you must listen to music, keep the volume low and use only one earbud.
—Pay careful attention to footing. Curbs and cracks can be harder to navigate at night; slow down if need be.
Next time you’re bemoaning the fact that your crazy day didn’t allow you to squeeze in your planned lunchtime session, don’t settle onto the couch and into a bag of chips for the night. Gear up and head out; I promise, a run like no other awaits.
Contributor Dimity McDowell Davis is the co-founder of Another Mother Runner, and the coauthor of Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity and Train Like a Mother: How to Cross Any Finish Line and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. (Sarah Bowen Shea is her partner in mother running crime.) Cross paths withAnother Mother Runner on Twitter, on Facebook or on their weekly podcasts on iTunes.
My alarm gently prods me awake. It is time to rise. It is 4:30 in the morning. I reach for my glasses and glance toward window knowing it is still dark.
The darkness comes with the coming of Fall and is upon us with apparent disregard for the enjoyment of the long days of summer. It too is inevitable.
I groggily walk toward the basement and change into my running gear. Shorts…check. Running shoes…check. Running tights…check. Gloves…check. Garmin…check. Hat…check. Balaclava…check. Headlamp…check. Headlamp?! In an effort to run safely I don my headlamp. It is important to see and to be seen. As I run through intersections I am inevitably asked “Why don’t I run on a treadmill?” The dreaded treadmill or “dread mill” as I has become known to me will only be used when it is too cold, too icey to run outside.
I enjoy running in the dark. I enjoy the anonymity, the silence and the solitude. My running routes too take on a new flavor.
I step outside and it is eerily silent. It is a silence similar to that found early in the morning when the day has already begun to be lighted by the sun. The eeriness arrives with the darkness and does not seem to lift until the sun makes its first appearance of the day.
I take my first steps and head toward the corner. My route lit by the constant glow of the overhead streetlights. My headlamp is not yet needed. One quarter mile later and I begin a sweeping left hand turn. The darkness is now more evident as the overhanging trees obscure most of the light shed from above. In mid stride I reach up and click on my headlamp. The bright glow of the focused beam lighting the way and now my constant companion. There is a measure of security in this beam as I can now see and be seen.
As I follow the curvature of the streets I find myself settling into a comfortable pace. There is a slight breeze which rustles the leaves. This breeze sounds like the string section if the philharmonic. My breathing has become easy and I forget about the need to breathe. My breathe is as natural as my stride; it is simply there. Evident but forgotten.
I turn right and run down an alley. It is darker than the surrounding streets. I feel as though I am doing something wrong. Running in the darkness when others are sound asleep. This thought quickly leaves me as I turn left and now run past a business which is humming with pre-dawn activity. I am not alone but still unaccompanied. My path takes me to a road normally busy with traffic. There are cars but not close to the numbers seen at other times of the day. I cross this street and head to the bike path on the opposing side. Cars race by me but I remain cloaked in darkness. If I switch off the headlamp I cannot be seen as I run just feet from the busy road. When streetlights allow this action to safely take place I will abide.
Darkness envelopes me as does the accompanying solitude. I make sweeping left and right hand turns and find myself in the home stretch. An hour has flown by and to the East there is a faint light rising above the horizon. Daylight is approaching and with it the busyness of the day. The sound of traffic has increased
I love the change of seasons. In Western New York I have the luxury of experiencing the cold of Winter; the warmer, lengthening days of Spring; the humidity of summer and the cool, crispness of Fall. I live in an area bordered by Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the Erie Canal and Niagara River and I am just 6 short hours from the gorgeous Adirondack region. For someone who loves water, this is truly heaven.
When I run during Fall, I live for those days when the planets align; I can run later than 4:30 AM, the sun is shining and the leaves have begun to change and to fall, their crispness sounding beneath each footstep.
This past week I used several of the vacation days which had been accumulating. I rose, parted the blinds and smiled as the Falls’s warmth touched my face. I dressed for my run and headed down to a path which follows the Erie Canal. I smiled as I ran in part because I was running but I was also anticipating the view which was waiting for me.
Go out into this beautiful world and see it for all of it’s majesty. Experience and be mindful of the changing sights, sounds and smells.
I rose early but tentatively. The darkness outside urging me to remain within the confines of the house. I sat on the edge of my bed eager to run but equally eager to remain beneath the warm blankets. I glanced between my pillow and the glowing face of the clock. Time was continuing to tick away. If I dressed now I would have time for four miles. If I returned to bed, sleep would more than likely elude me, thoughts racing around my head. I reminded myself how much better I feel when I follow my heart and run.
In the end, the desire to run won out as it usually does.
The run, refreshing and rejuvenating helped my day get off to a solid start. I stopped by Fisherman’s park along the Niagara River, a stop I enjoy making because of the opportunities to enjoy the solid of the morning. A quick “Hi” to two passing runners; they were leaving and I was entering. The cooler Fall temperatures ensured I did not remain stationery too long. The muscles of my thighs beginning to tighten against the increasing breeze. I reached down with gloved hands and gave them a cursory rub. I leaned forward and ran the remainder of the distance home.
I reached the house and was greeted by Jack’s wagging tail. We walked around the house and retreated to the front porch where we both enjoyed the remaining silence of the morning. He sat to my left, sphinx like. His gaze remained transfixed on the squirrels criss-crossing the lawn gathering food for the communing winter. The remnants of a beautiful sunrise still kissed the leaves, remaining attached to their branches. The air has a noticeable twinge to it as we inch closer to Fall. The sounds of Fall also change as we creep closer to Winter. Fallen leaves, now dry and crumpled, crack beneath each footstep. A car passes and the wind created by this passing vehicle creates enough turbulence that it stirs the leaves making a sound rarely if ever heard during other times of the year. Rain, now more common drenches the soil. Puddles remained from the previous nights downpour. Cars create a splash as they disturb the still puddles on the side of the road.
It is time to rise and shower, to meet the remainder of the day head on and to make it a beautiful day.
Today was a good day!