I decided to start 2015 off on the right foot, so on New Year’s Day I went for a run and I came to an odd realization.
I hate running in the sunlight.
I’m sorry, what?
Bailey and I typically hit the pavement by 5:50 a.m. during the week, but seeing as though I was off on New Year’s day, I wasn’t going to get myself up any earlier than my body wanted (one of the joys of currently being childless). On this particular day, we were out the door at about 10:30 a.m.
The sun was shining, and it was a brisk 38-ish degrees. It was a pretty nice day to be outside.
Our run started off almost immediately with a change in course as to avoid two wandering dogs. That was the first of many distractions Bailey and I encountered. There were other joggers, walkers with strollers, homeowners raking the leaves, speeding cars, and dogs testing the boundaries of their invisible fences.
I suddenly found myself in the midst of a dog training session that I wasn’t expecting.
The sun was at the perfect angle to hit right above my eyes, my giant forehead acting like a solar panel. I found myself squinting, which caused my mild headache to worsen. The sun, still strong despite the temperature, beat down on me and I felt hot in my long-sleeved shirt. The heat felt claustrophobic.
I was happy for the three miles to be over.
While petty, these little annoyances made me appreciate my runs before sunrise.
Our next run was four days later at 5:40 a.m., a little earlier than our usual time thanks to a temporary bout of insomnia. The full moon gave us some extra light, but the stars still twinkled brightly and I spot Orion’s Belt somewhere along the way. A rooster begins to crow and early-risers warm up their cars. The distant T.V. towers more than 10 miles away blink intermittently as they transmit the morning news. My two feet and Bailey’s four paws seem extra loud as they hit the asphalt.
I listen for cars coming in the distance, but we see less than five that early in the morning. I watch Bailey for signs of distress. She usually spots something concerning before I do. Sometimes it’s another loose dog, other times it’s a pile of boxes on the side of the road.
I keep an eye out for the high schoolers walking to the bus stop, and wave to a sweet girl who always smiles when we pass. Out of habit, I look up to wave hello to the older man that sits on his porch drinking a cup of coffee. He hasn’t been there since the weather cooled, but I expect I’ll see him again soon.
Sometimes we see other runners, but their schedules aren’t as predictable and maybe they slept late that day.
We return to our driveway at about 6:25 a.m. just as the sun begins to brighten the horizon.
We’ll have more light as the days get longer, but even then I’ll always try to be home before the sun rises above the trees. The summer heat is oppressive and unsafe for a dog covered in a heavy coat.
I rarely feel unsafe in my neighborhood, but find that I’m always on the alert – waiting for the next car to come flying around the blind curve or loose dog to say hello. I move further into the road as I pass the occasional wooded lot and eye each darkened stranger with caution until I’m certain it’s just a neighbor going about his morning routine.
I thought I would find more comfort in the light. Cars can see me more easily and strangers can be identified a block away. I can see through the wooded lots and avoid the loose dogs more quickly.
But with the light comes distractions that are louder than listening for an oncoming vehicle. It’s a chorus of cars, and strollers, and dogs, and friendly neighbors, all under this blinding, heavy blanket.
Even with an eye of caution, the darkness is quiet. It’s peaceful.
And on our quiet run in the dark, I realized that I somehow learned to become OK with setting my alarm for 5:10 a.m. and heading out the door 40 minutes later.
Somehow, I learned to like running.
Somehow, in the darkness, I became a runner.