The darkness is my running partner, more so now I am forced to be solitary in my stride. I do not hate it, I am very comfortable with my company, we laugh at the same jokes and run at the same pace, so it is perfection. However, it is not unusual for me to run in the unlight of the morn! I am a mother of three small boys and I need to get up and run before the kids open their sleep crusted eyelids and stretch their gangly arms towards dawns first light.
It is my ritual, it is my thing and I adore every dusky edged moment of it. As I steal through the house at 4.30 am, silently yanking on shorts, sports bra, socks, wrist band, hair band, headlamp, HR monitor and FINALLY the “piste de resistance”, my sneakers. To aid in my stealth I lay them all out the night before, clean, in order, ready! I double check what run I have and then choose the run sneaker to match, comfy Saucony ISO 2, 4mm drop for steady and easy, Saucony Kinvara, 4 mm drop , for tempo or intervals and then my Saucony type A9, 4mm for the track or a race. By the way I like Saucony incase you were not sure, well better then that, my feet and ankles really like them.
Faced scrubbed, coffee chugged, “bathroom”, teeth brushed, bed hair clipped back, I grab my hand held bottle and steal out into the gloom.
Stepping into the sepia of a fading night, the blackness and humidity envelopes my already sweating body (I am a Florida flatlander), shielding me from danger. The dim beam of my lamp fights its way through the night, scrabbling to light a safe path for my pounding feet, rhythmic body flow and steady breath as I strike out in time to the beating crickets and hiss of sprinklers.
A hushed calm floats over me, shushing jangled nerves and a busy mind in to silence. Foot plants, arm swings, breath rushes, foot plants, arm swings, breath rushes, again and again, over and over, my morning meditation propelling me deeper and deeper into the waking morning. A grey light starts to warm the sky, subtle reds, pinks, oranges and gold start to paint the sky, the tips of trees and roofs of a slumbering world.
Feet are still ticking over, perspiration running in rivulets down my back, across my face, I rub it out of my eyes, breath rushes in breath rushes out. Birds get busy, softly chirping with the breaking sky as it brightens. The moon softly, slides across the horizon to hide behind a cloud, the birds noise builds and builds, a mounting crescendo of song. Whipping around me, pushing me, driving me like a spectre from the confines of the night in to the day. Losing the phantom, joining my flesh and bone body.
Arms swing forward, arms drive back, chasing the night as she slips away. Shadows are sucked out from the base of trees and stretch to the soaring sun. She climbs higher and higher, the birds oh the birds are so loud, I run faster and faster, heart pounding as each mile passes, like a vampire I yearn for the night, sprinting home. Strike, swing, breath, the momentum, the motion is now a blur, I am almost there, muscles screaming for oxygen, but there is nothing left, depleted, spent. The front door looms, I slow, I stop, head hanging like a weeping willow tree, bowing humbly to the sunrise, my sweat glistens in its newborn glow. I lie down, hair plastered across my brow, the twilight is gone and I am stranded. Left to recover on the concrete, dragging air in and forcing it out, slowing my heart, relishing the stillness, the mild ache of my body as it rests from the pain.
I am still, I am awake, I am a shadow, I am a runner.
Minutes pass, I ease myself up off the warming side walk, drag in a slug of water and open the door, ready to hit the fray of my day.
I close it quietly and begin.
Love, Shadow runner.