That was the night I planned to run six but instead ended up on a gravel road in the middle of a twelve-mile loop. There was enough light to see, even beyond the glow of the city lights, because the moon was full and the night was clear. The night sky was black as ink, and the moon was bright against it. I noticed my shadow over my right shoulder, clear against the soft glow of the light blue limestone. It looked so much different than during the day.
For a while, I only listened to the rocks under my feet and my steady breaths. I began to wonder why I’d changed my mind. Why didn’t I run what I’d planned? If you’d asked me earlier in the day I’m sure I would have given you a long list of reasons not to. We put in a lot of miles the week before, and besides it was late. As a runner, you always think about how the run fits into the completed and upcoming mileage. In the morning, when your body aches and creaks you curse your poor judgment from the day before. Still, there is something about running at night that’s different than the day. Something, I’m sure I’ll forget by morning.
I felt much different than the day before. This was the first run in a long time to feel this way. It was an intoxicating feeling, the “runner’s high” everyone talks about. I left the house an hour or so before, and it took a moment to remember what had prompted me to run when I did. I thought hard to recall the exact words, but couldn’t. I was frustrated, my head burned and my mind raced. I laced up my shoes and started my watch on the way out the front door. It happened earlier that week too, maybe Tuesday, but it was hard to remember. My memory faded and I again focused on my shadow. I was only a few feet from the ditch and my outline became a bit more obscure against the tall grass.
I looked at my watch and figured my split for the second half seemed a little faster. I was only about a quarter mile from town, so the lights began to overtake the night sky. The only thing I heard between my breaths were my near silent feet on the black grass next to the sidewalk. The sky wasn’t as dark as a few moments before, the moon nearly extinguished by the amber street lights. As I approached each light my shadow caught me from behind and then lengthened out in front of my feet as I passed. I watched my shadow for a while and then noticed the pace the ground traveled under my feet. I had started to feel tired a couple miles back, but had I quickened the pace? I looked at my watch. I was faster—by a couple minutes.