First, a couple of links for the runner-geeks, then some rumination on night running.
A nice tribute to George Sheehan, the greatest runner/philosopher on the Writer's Almanac. (Nov. 5, 2013)
And, an interesting interview of Anthony Famiglietti (Fam) on Roads, Mills, Laps.
I hope you enjoy those.
The fall time change means one thing for me -- running in the dark. It feels somewhat shameful to admit it, but I am not a morning runner. This is strange because I am generally a morning person. I wake up in a good mood, get to work, do my things. My mind is ready to go, but my body is generally tight and achy. So, unless I am doubling (and it's been a while since then), I run in the evenings.
So, tonight I was out there running at my normal evening hour, and because of the time change, it was dark. For me, it's this way from November through February -- three months of running in the dark. I don't mind this.
When you are running, you become sort of invisible to most people. You are out there on the streets in the most public space, but in a way that makes you a part of the scenery, part of the architecture of the city. We are so familiar that we become somewhat hidden from view and interchangeable with anything else -- just part of someone's commute.
This feeling of invisibility is a part of all running, and night running amplifies it. I have never been one for reflectors or headlamps. I know the reasons for these -- they help the cars see us. But let me ask something: why do we have to be seen? I can't see the people in those cars; why do they need to see me? I would rather not be seen.
Further, there always seems to me to be something hostile about headlights. It's that they are so, well, outwards, so intent on illuminating everything that is outside of them. Riding in a car, we feel invulnerable, and through this invulnerability our senses are muted. Those headlights blind us when we are out on the road; as runners we realize their effect on experience is eliminatory as much as illuminating. In order to produce the effect of control, headlights have to blot out as much of the night as possible.
Running, in general, is a sport of exposure. In running we are exposed -- to weather, to our bodies, to pain, to effort, to our limits, to each other. And at night, we are exposed to the dark. This exposure and vulnerability is one of the most positive things about running. It's what gets our senses up and makes us watch and see and react. The night acts like a stimulant -- my eyes see everything that can be seen; my ears hear more, the footfalls and breathing rhythms come out of the background; I become myself, and I hear myself. I experience myself.
Running in the dark can remind us of all the different shades with which experience is colored. We say that we are "in the dark" because the dark envelopes us. We swim in it, we float through it. It is different than day and light -- quieter, closer, subtler. And, once enveloped, we become more sensitive, more inward, narrowed down to a thin and vulnerable core.
At night, in the dark, we see less, we feel more.