I’ve always hated the winter nights. People try and convince me that they’re ‘cosy’ and always try selling me on the image of being sat around an open fire with loved ones.
Well people, this isn’t a Hollywood Christmas movie. In reality you wake up when it’s dark and cold, spend the daylight hours indoors and then go home when it’s dark and cold. I spend 4 months a year only seeing daylight on my weekends. It really is the worst time of year.
This was my view up until about 2 weeks ago. Since then I have found a new sense of appreciation for the dark nights and it’s all thanks to running.
There is something special about running in the dark. It transforms your old, mundane routes into something fresh and new. No longer can you mindlessly plod along, lost in your own thoughts. Now each foot placement becomes a conscious decision. Broken paving slabs and previously unnoticed tree routes suddenly appear in the light of your head torch and force you to react fast.
Routes that you have run numerous times become unfamiliar, landmarks unrecognisable, distances meaningless. Your runs seem to pass more quickly too. No longer are you counting the minutes between yourself and that distant landmark. The darkness removes this distraction and compels you to work in the moment, the here and now.
Noises are another factor that drastically change at night. From the slightest rustle of leaves to the footsteps on the trail up in front, normal sounds that you would generally disregard during the day become ominous and sinister.
On a recent night run, I was heading through a local park and hadn’t seen a single person for the entire 5-6 miles up to this point. All of a sudden I started to hear movement from up ahead, and then within moments it was all around me. As I raised my hand to click up the brightness of my head torch, every possible scenario of what was about to greet me ran through my mind. As the beam of light broadened and I took a look around me, it soon became obvious what was causing the sound.
I was currently running through the middle of a herd of sleeping cows.
I actually laughed out loud at the realisation (which would have been mildly confusing to anyone within earshot). I knew there were cows in this field; I’ve run it dozens of times in the past. But the imagination has a mind of its own when one of the senses is taken away.
It’s not all fun and games though. There is also a very real sense of danger in the dark. Running on the roads, even in daylight, can be a daunting prospect for some. At night the risk becomes more apparent as on winding roads, the cars can be almost on top of you before they spy your head torch or high-vis clothing.
However, roads can generally be avoided in most places and the paths are generally quiet once the sun sets. Even so, I would recommend everyone to invest in a good head torch and some proper high-visibility clothing to reduce any potential risk.
As long as you’re sensible and safe, running at night can be incredibly enjoyable. Sometimes even more so than your summer runs. Being outside, alone, in the darkness, the silence, it removes all unnecessary distractions. It lets you concentrate on your running, on yourself!
It really is a fantastic time to run.