Darkness. What happens to the world, your world, when you are miles from the closest town, the sun dips beyond the horizon, and the vibrant cacophony of day melts into the inky unknown of night. The sense you rely on the most, sight, is no longer relevant. Tiny twigs become monsters lurking around every turn. The wind in the trees, that until recently was welcome, cooling, embracing, is suddenly startling, harsh, fearsome. Your heart speeds up, clashing against your chest, your blood pounds in your ears, and the smallest sound seems to come from the largest of predator. The stresses of the day manifest themselves in terrors of the night.
What about darkness is fearsome? Logically nothing. The same animal you imagine to be stalking you at night could just as easily stalk you during the day. In fact, it’s probably more likely that it is watching you during the day, rather than at night when it is sleeping. Why do mysteries capture our imaginations yet the unknown frightens us? Aren’t they two sides of the same coin?
I’ve been pondering these things for a while now, particularly in light of my most recent 100 mile failure. I have started races before the sun, jogging along under the light of my headlamp. Actually, I prefer races that start before sunrise. Time and distance have no meaning. Miles slip by on the periphery.
And then there are races that run through the night. Or go into the night. These races scare me. Even when I’m fully rested and rational, the thought of starting a race during the day and continuing into the night scares me. And I don’t know why. I’ve tried to get more comfortable with the night. I’ve gone on hikes with Jason and Moose that start during the day and last well into the night (the benefits of dating someone who loves taking pictures of the stars). On these hikes, I’m the brave, rational one on the outside, reassuring both of my boys that there are no animals stalking us. But inside I’m scared, unsure, and irrational.
So the question is, how to quiet these demons? How do I strengthen my mind, while strengthening my body, so that I am confident and, dare I say, comfortable running without my sight? As my dreams become bigger and the planning to turn dreams into reality progresses, I need to answer these questions. I need to put my mind at ease. I need to realize there is nothing to fear about the night. And maybe I’ll learn to enjoy running through the night just as I enjoy running from dark to dawn.
Running friends, how did you become comfortable running at night? Or are not comfortable with it, but just have learned to deal with the discomfort? Or do you just hope to run really fast and never have to run into the night?