Last night as I was walking back from our local and fabulous Indian restaurant with a friend, a runner burst across the road in front of us. No, it wasn’t some drunken fool stumbling to get the last tube, or someone running from a mugger hiding in the trees along Hangar Lane. It was a runner, in shorts with go faster stripes, arms pumping, bombing along the pavement. I checked my watch. It was 11.35pm.
In our curry and red wine merriment, my friend and I thought he was a mad man. Who goes out running at this hour? But then this morning I thought about it, and a spot of late night running isn’t as crazy as you might think.
Imagine you’ve had a horribly stressful and busy week at work. You get home really late on Friday and quite easily you could collapse on your couch with a beer and fall asleep to late night chat shows. But it’s not so insane to relieve the tension and pressure of the week by heading out for a run. It wakes up your body and those muscles which have been stuck behind a desk all week get some air. It starts your weekend off by drawing the line between being stationary in the office and the freedom of the weekend.
Other plus points include clearer streets and less traffic if you’re an urban runner; cooler temperatures if you live in the tropics; the joy of being able to wear those bright pink running shorts your running buddy hates; and of course the smug feeling of waking up in the morning knowing you’re good to get in the garden, lay about and read the paper or cook up a brunch storm.
Of course, there are also things to be aware of when running at night. Being seen is one, so wearing some reflective clothing is a good idea and knowing your route another one. It’s probably best not to try that new route through the park in the dead of night. As with any late night jaunt, keep any valuables hidden away. Though, if you’re like me, someone trying to steal your running music will probably laugh and give it back to you. And I don’t run with any money. The most valuable things are my means of escape: legs and feet.
When I was living in Argentina, my boyfriend and I did an organised night run and I was reminded of this by seeing that night runner last night. It was great fun: a 10km round the lake roads of Nordelta, near Buenos Aires. We were told to come with head torches, which we didn’t have, so we ended up buying some cheap, plastic hand-held torches in a supermarket on the way to the run. I think I must have been under some illusion that the moon would guide us as we ran somehow romantically at each other’s side. Well, that night the clouds descended and we were down dirt tracks that, while waiting to be paved and have houses built along them, were deserted of any light at all. So, real night running then, no starry joke.
But it was great fun, even with failing, crappy torches. Running at night you felt like you were in some secret club. All you could hear was the tap, tap, tap of feet on the track. And instead of seeing a sea of the same coloured shirt, it was a wave crest of lights bobbing up and down and slowly moving round the lakes. Who needed the moon?
And if night running’s not for you, you still have the comfort that the sun will rise another day, and that’s yours for the running as well.