Literally. The sun sets now about 4:15 pm, so when I drive up to the track for my run clinic at 5:30 it is completely dark. And there are no lights at the track, so the group must use headlamps. What an experience. I have no idea what these women actually look like, because I only get half-light glimpses of the bits of their faces that are not covered by hats pulled down low and collars turned high against the cold.
I don’t get a great look at the track, either, because the headlamp, while seemingly very bright against the blackness of night, doesn’t really illuminate a big area. And I should describe this track before you get the wrong idea. It is a dirt track. As in, it is muddy when it rains. Does it rain here? Need you ask? Anyway, not only is it muddy, there are puddles! And the surface is uneven, almost as if you are on a trail. And after a wind storm there is plenty of debris in the form of small branches, pine cones, leaves, etc.
All of which makes for a remarkable experience, and changes the whole feeling of running. With the darkness comes a separation from all the things that I usually compare myself with and to while running – other people, trees, the ground – all are pretty much “in the dark”, and so not very useful for comparison. I can’t easily tell how fast I am going, which is a liberating experience! Much as I try not to, I usually compare my speed with anyone I come across. While this still happens when one of the runners passes me (or I occasionally pass one of them), the rest of the time it is just me, out in the dark, enjoying the solitude of a run with very little visual stimulation. A wonderfully quieting and satisfying experience.