Running before Dawn

For not being a morning person, I find it a little odd that I actually like running before dawn, but I do.

There’s something about starting out in the dark, with only the moon and streetlamps to light my way, in the coldest part of the morning when even animals are still safely wrapped in sleep and only a few lone cars trespass the streets.

I’m alone with my thoughts and the music.  An introvert’s dream.

There’re no distractions.   No faltering in my speed.  I don’t have to constantly pause to check that drivers have seen me or if they will let me cross the street first.  I don’t have to run around other pedestrians and their dogs or play that awkward game of trying to outrun another runner who’s ever so slightly off pace but who’s suddenly decided to run the exact same route as me.  No trash trucks or construction crews or random marching bands.  Nothing.  The streets are blessedly silent and free.

And though it might seem like hard work to get out of bed and go out into the surrounding darkness when I could just as easily stay under the safety of my quilts, there’s something to look forward to that makes it more than worth it.  (Besides the introvert’s paradise of thinking without interruption.)

But don’t get me wrong, sometimes it takes discipline.  It takes discipline to get up on the first or second alarm and get out the door in time to run before work.  It takes discipline to keep running the whole route when I could just as easily turn at a different street and cut my run short, or not take all the hills if I don’t feel like it.  But pushing past what I think I can do feels great afterwards, and not just because I put in a good run.

Because, you see, after I crest over the top of that final (and steepest) hill, I’m facing home.  I’m facing east.  And the first colors of dawn are just lighting up the horizon.  Not the bright oranges that mean the sun is about to show herself, but the pinks and light blues that speak more softly of the approaching day.

In that moment when the night is behind me and all that is ahead is growing light…  well, that is peace.

It’s these first faint streaks of dawn in an otherwise artificially lit night that make it worth it.  They are hope, a certainty that the sun is rising.  Though they are far away and only a beginning of the change from night to day, little more than a whisper, they are enough:  The change has begun.  And it is irreversible.

There’s something powerful about starting my day with this physical experience of hope that is akin to joy, with the certain knowledge that life is changing for the better, moving towards only good (provided I keep my focus on the light).

Because all too often we think of life as on its way to a sunset or we get lost in the muddle of the distractions of the world and forget what we are made for, where our lives are going.

It’s true that physically we reach our peak somewhere in our twenties and it’s all downhill from there.  But emotionally and spiritually, that is not so.  We always have the opportunity to grow more.  Our lives are a journey made for walking into the sunrise, of gradually being able to see more and more light, of being renewed and restored until we are, quite literally, perfect.

And I need this reminder every day.