Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Midnight Hour

The midnight hour:  is that hour not something for young twenty-somethings, who have just begun their social activities?  Maybe many of us relate to the midnight hour as that last feeding, the time when our little one would sleep a solid five or so hours (we prayed) before arising again with the hungry cries.  What is it about aging, that staying up to midnight is about as appealing as that annual nether-region doctor appointment?

Having said all of that, who on EARTH would consider a midnight run?  A literal run:   jogging on two feet, in the darkest dark of night for exercise, blinking and moving for entertainment, and solely for fun?

Yes, that would be me.

BUT, kindly  let me tell you about it, how one midnight run forever changed me, how the miles offered me a freedom like I had yet to experience in my life.  

Remember in Girls Night Out: RTB Style, I signed up for the crazy race that consisted of 200 miles over 24 hours with 11 other teammates?  Yes, I know you do, as you shook your head and mumbled what a nut I am.  I keep going back to one of the three legs I had to run; and with reflection, I keep savoring the path I followed that evening……wait, morning…..oh heck, smack dab middle of the night run.

At one of our planning meetings, I realized that I was in van #2 and the first runner in said van.  I quickly began trying to guesstimate the approximate times I would be running during this 24 hour period.  I determined that my first run would be around 3-4 pm on Friday, my second run likely 1 am on Saturday and my last run around 11 am on Saturday.

Who runs in the dead middle of the night?

Yes, that would be me.

Fast-forward to Friday, May 17th:   I was eagerly anticipating the text message from my teammate, the text that would let me know what time the runner would be coming in to pass the baton to me.  Van #1 is filled with lithe women who run REALLY fast.  You know, for a “fun” race – they were flying in ahead of schedule with each passing leg.  I was given a warning that I should expect runner #6 in about 11:45 pm.  I took off at precisely 12:08 am into what was supposed to be a 6.5 mile run, the longest of my three legs. 

The conditions that early morning were perfect:  it was 50 degrees and dry.  I was blinking like the bad guy Dynamo in the Arnold Schwarzenneger movie, "The Running Man".

From head to toe I was lit up:   headlamp, now THAT is a sexy look; blinking boobie light; blinking back light and a reflector vest that would make any DPW worker envious.   I was NOT going to get hit by a car in the middle of the night (but my teammates thought I might get eaten by a bear or perhaps sprayed by a skunk).

I started out on my run on a main road somewhere in Hopkinton and quickly diverted onto a country bumpkin-like road where it was literally PITCH BLACK.  My heart started to race a little more than intended for a jog.  I looked ahead as far as I thought I could see and there was only darkness.  I turned and looked behind me to see the light pollution of the lone gas station fading away in the distance.  There was NO one else around me.  I rolled my ankle.  Dang, this road was laden with pot-holes and divots, all unseen to me.  I tried running with my head down a bit to light up my way, but I realized that would be unwise for another six miles and took my chances as the road started to wind. 

Suddenly, I looked up and I was struck by the clarity of stars in the sky above me; highlighted by the light of the nearly full moon.  The moon would guide me to the finish.  My heart was calmer as my mind took in the absolute beauty of the middle of the night.  The overwhelming smell of spring lilacs filled the air as my breaths became steadier.  As the road became a bit more populated and more residential, I saw blinking lights on runners ahead of me in the distance.  Soon thereafter, I would start to hear regular pounding of approaching footprints behind me, followed by affirmative words of praise: 
“Good job!  Keep going!” 

“You’ve got this!”

“What a beautiful night for a run!”

It was a beautiful night for a run.  I followed the yellow reflector arrows to ensure I was on the right path and on my way to my transition area.  I kept running and running and running and running.

I had set my GPS on my phone in the event that somehow, I should get lost.  I was incredibly happy when I realized I had passed the six mile mark, only a half mile remained between me and the next runner.  As much as I enjoyed running the midnight hour, I was getting tired and 60 minutes in, I was ready to pass the baton.  I kept running and running and running and running.  I soon became a little freaked when I realized I passed the seven mile mark.  I knew I had not missed the transition area because there were signs everywhere and runners around me.  I started to panic because now, mentally, I was done – my mind was prepared to run six and a half miles and I was at seven – with no transition area in sight! 

My feet got heavier; they started to pound and scuff the pavement below.  My toes were feeling the friction of my super cool, but super uncomfortable Wonder Woman socks.  My team was waiting for me and I had told them I would be done over ten minutes ago.  No, I could no longer see the stars or the moon!  In fact, when a fellow runner encouraged me to run alongside of him and finish together, I was rather curt and asked where the damn transition area was.

When I finally crossed the transition line, my GPS said a total of 7.69 miles.  Yes.  A whopping 1.19 miles LONGER than I had I had anticipated for my long run.  However, I did it.  I enjoyed it (we will exclude that rant from the past half mile).  For the first time in a very long time, I felt free.  I managed to “escape” my world for a little over an hour.  There were no children needing me; there was no stack of bills to pay; there were no work deadlines; there was only me, myself and I present in that journey.  I was free.

Have you ever felt complete freedom (even if momentarily, like my experience above)?  If so, tell me about it.

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