It has been with a sinking heart that I have watched the shortening days cut into my running time. For some reason “run” and “sun” seem to be an inseparable pair in my mind. There is no run if there is no sun. But as the sunrise has come later, and now with the time change, the night has come earlier, I’ve been trying to separate the two. It’s not like I haven’t done it before — Micah and I used to run along Kamehameha Highway in the dark of evening, against the traffic, our tail lights flashing (and with prayers in our hearts that we wouldn’t fall into a ditch or take some car by surprise) — but it’s something I have to think about a lot, run through several checklists, and then take a few deep breaths before I actually do it.
Because running in the dark can be dangerous. When we ran the Ragnar Relay a few years ago, many of our miles were along what felt like deserted highways, with no streetlights, on a night so dark it was hard to determine where the earth ended and the sky began. I remember being somewhat skittish at first, but eventually my senses opened up, my mind became more aware, and I felt very conscious of my surroundings, even though I couldn’t see them. It was pretty awesome. Running in the dark can exercise mind and body, which, in addition to running, is trying to feel out uneven ground, avoid potholes, and steer clear of loose gravel, steep ditches, and cars.
Maybe running in the dark can be a good thing — an even better way to clear your mind and be present and focused. But it can also be a good way to get hurt. Because remember the potholes, loose gravel, steep ditches, and cars? (Not to mention shady characters lurking in the dark . . . *shiver*.) Fortunately darkness can be worked with. Drivers can see you if you are wearing reflective clothing — not just light colors, but reflective stuff. Don’t be shy about it. Reflective vests are totally hot. So are headlamps, blinking tail lights, and hats (so you can shield your eyes from the blinding headlights that you will be seeing because you are, of course, running facing the traffic).
But don’t think that you own the road just because you light up like a star when a beam of light touches you. You still have to be smart and, perhaps, overly cautious. No running across streets against traffic lights. Carry a cell phone, ditch the iPod, and let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Run a well-lighted route if you can, but don’t be afraid to vary your route because . . . well, some people are crazy and might notice your schedule and your route and bad things could happen. Run with friends. Carry your ID and emergency contact information.
Be smart, be thoughtful, be alert, be safe.
And enjoy the solitude of sunless sky.