Miles to Go Before I Sleep
(read about leg 1 here)
- Leg #: 23
- Route: SR-32 (the road next to Rockport Lake)
- Distance: 5.5
- Time: 51:44
- Starting time: about 3:15 a.m.
Last year I was terrified about my night run, having never run in the dark. This year, knowing what to expect, I wasn’t afraid. I knew what to wear (my favorite long sleeve, capris, and my cute rainbow chevron socks) because previous experience told me that once I started running I wouldn’t really feel the cold; I knew to adjust my reflective vest the right way and how to angle my headlamp. I wasn’t nervous.
But I was sort of hopeful. I knew I’d be starting my night run at about 3:45, which is pretty close to 4:00 a.m., which is fairly close to 5:15ish when the sun starts to rise. I so wanted to run at least part of my second leg in some sort of light, so I could see and experience the landscape. I kept hoping that all the other runners on my team would clock slightly slower times. They didn’t, though (it was remarkable, in fact, how closely we stuck to our time estimates), so I started knowing I wouldn’t run into any light.
Some runners love the night run. I enjoyed it more this year, but I can’t say I loved it. I think I got passed 2,187 times but only passed six runners. Since there wasn’t any moon yet, I could only see the little space in front of me that my headlamp lit up, so it almost felt like running on a treadmill...running, but not getting anywhere.
Still, though. I’m sounding negative when really, there was something. Even though it was dark and my legs were tired and the very gentle uphill seemed relentless, still: about halfway through I felt it. That feeling that comes only when you’re tired but you keep moving anyway. Only on the edge of exhaustion. I stopped counting songs and wanting to be done; I started noticing the texture of the darkness and the still coolness of the air as it wafted from the lake.
Then I came around a curving hill and I could see the exchange, about two miles away, and something even more extraordinary: the moon! It was just the sliver of a waning crescent but it still reflected in the water. It didn’t feel like just seeing the moon, but like finding it. Like it was something I had to work for in order to deserve. I thought about seeing the same moon earlier in the month, but so full and bright and close it looked like a painting of the moon instead of the real thing, and then a few days later the same moon rising, its side shaved away, from the ocean. And now here it was, giving me a little light. Just enough that I fell in love, finally, with my night run.
For the next two miles, I looked at the moon and thought about darkness and light. Even though I am years past what my mom still calls my "black phase," I still feel lost in the darkness quite often. When light comes, it isn’t usually the form I had hoped for, but it hardly matters. Sometimes you don’t need the full light of the sun; sometimes just a sliver of moonlight is enough.
This leg finishes along a crowded road, where vans are going both ways and the runners have just a tiny stretch of dirt to run on. I was a little bit terrified of getting hit, especially after an enormous Suburban swerved towards me and I was inches away from bashing my face into its mirror. (Dear Ragnar Organizers: perhaps you could work on that spot somehow? Love, Amy.) But I made it to the exchange, where I could see Becky waiting for me. I’d been carrying the slap bracelet in hopes of getting some of the sweat to dry for her; I slapped it on her wrist and watched her run into the darkness that was a shade or two lighter. I knew she’d finish in the sunlight, but I wasn’t envious. The light I had was the light I needed.
PS: One of the things that made my night run much more fun was my playlist. I made it just for the night run:
- "My Body" by Young the Giant (I started all of my runs with this song)
- "Midnight" by Yaz
- "Somebody that I Used to Know" by Goyte
- "All Night Long" by Peter Murphy
- "We are Young" by Fun
- "Only if For a Night" by Florence + The Machine
- "Changing" by Airborne Toxic Event
- "Nightswimming" by REM (I confess: way too slow to run to, but I love that song)
- "She Bangs the Drum" by Stone Roses
- "Because the Night" by Natalie Merchant
- "So Cruel" by Depeche Mode
- "You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC (I'm embarrassed to admit to that one)
- "Reunion" by Erasure
- Lightning Man by Nitzer Ebb (get it?)
(I was stretching for songs to fit my theme but it all ended up working.)