I like running back roads at night.
By day, I’d rather sit still and let my muscles slowly atrophy than be caught on a paved surface logging miles. The constant drone of vehicles, sun beating down your neck over the sweltering, black sun-magnet, and lack of variety in the running surface all combine to make what is, in my opinion, the worst possible experience you could have on a run.
However, I don’t mind it so much by dark. There is something altogether different about road running at night, particularly on back roads with no traffic nor lines. Perhaps the cool air, lack of vision, and relative speed at which you can run makes the expedition infinitely more appealing than the same run during the day.
To be even more specific, I like running through the pitch-black night without a headlamp, blind to the road ahead; the faster the better. It is at these moments, sprinting cooly past fireflies and sleeping houses, when you can’t see a thing in front of you, that your other senses sharpen. Unable to trust your eyesight, you notice the changing pitch of the road beneath your feet more through your ankles and legs themselves, physically rather than visually noting the curvatures and inclinations in the road. You hear every rain drop or scurrying squirrel off the roadside much more clearly, and the metronome of your breath and heartbeat help you stay more in tune to your body and keep a healthier pace. You smell the heat or cool of the night and can feel the freshness or the humidity running through your nostrils.
And perhaps most importantly, your brain plays tricks on you.
Running down a road that you know to be clear of branches, potholes, gates or other obstacles, you still flinch. Or you want to flinch. Your face draws back, ready to receive a branch or a spider web to the eyeball. Every shadow becomes a root or a log to catch a toe on, every piece of moonlight cast upon the pavement an irregularity to trip you. Even though you know this is not the case, your brain still falsely alerts you to these perceived dangers.
It is because of these false alarms and insecurities that night running presents the beautiful opportunity that turns it into such a pleasurable experience (for me.) It presents the opportunity to confront the fictitious obstacles, to trust yourself in face of the unknown, to be confident that you will be safe in spite of these nervous tics.
In life too, we often run blind to what lies around the bend, down the road, or perhaps even right in front of us. Tomorrow. In life, as in running, we must meet the unknown head-on, confidently and fearlessly. If not, we would never move forward.
And you run. Once the hurdle is lept, and you are running fearlessly through the night, no headlamp, you become free to look up at the stars and contemplate everything else that has muddied your mind in recent hours, days, or weeks. Unconcerned with traffic, you run where you please. In the lanes, on the curb, in zig-zags, or perhaps right down the center line. Freed from preoccupation with the next three or four steps, you are granted the pleasure of considering the larger picture of your nocturnal surroundings. It is at these moments that I can taste sweet liberty.
Nobody to tell you how or where or when to run. No humans or vehicles or other noises that would lead you to suspect that there was anyone else with you in the universe, as far as you can tell. Just you, the stars, and your thoughts.
On nights like these, basking in the sensation of boundless liberty and heightened confidence, I feel that I could run forever.