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home > community > viewpoint > lights out october

Lights Out October
One of the most appealing aspects of running is being outside on a sunny day, breathing in fresh air, seeing the sights, enjoying all of nature's beauty. As wonderful as that running ideal seems, alas, it is not always the case. In fact, for many runners it is more the exception than the rule.

  
Lights Out October

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By Don Allison
Posted Monday, 18 October, 1999

One of the most appealing aspects of running is being outside on a sunny day, breathing in fresh air, seeing the sights, enjoying all of nature's beauty. As wonderful as that running ideal seems, alas, it is not always the case. In fact, for many runners it is more the exception than the rule.

Here in New England, running outside is accentuated by the distinct change of seasons, something not as prevalent in other parts of the country. Running in the summertime brings heat and humidity, but with it also long hours of daylight. Early evening runs are a breeze, in shorts and a T-shirt under a strong late day sun. Early morning runners enjoy similar benefits, running at daybreak before the heat of the day.

Labor Day is back to school time, but summer running usually continues through most of September. As the ninth month comes to close however, those who run on the far side of the workday notice daylight becoming a more precious commodity. When the sun does set, it is often accompanied by a sharp drop in temperature.

All of this is a prelude to that fateful last Sunday in October, when the clocks are pushed back by an hour. If there is a time each year that sends many runners into a wave of depression, it is then. Perhaps it is felt even more markedly the next day, when 9 to 5 workers walk out the door at the end of the workday into total darkness. It does not exactly engender thoughts of putting on shorts and a T-shirt and gong for a run.

There is a feeling of a loss of freedom that comes with this darkness. Running requires more plotting, more planning, and more motivation. Vehicular traffic is more threatening, as are the streets on your normal route, so friendly and open in the summer, now lurking with who-knows-what in the dark shadows.

Of course, all of this unpleasantness can be avoided by running on an indoor track or on a treadmill at the health club. Such running will keep you in perfectly good shape and be decidedly easier than battling the darkness and the cold.

But there are some benefits to running in the dark of late fall and winter. One of those benefits is solitude. The roller bladers, cyclists, and skatebnoaders that turn the Charles River footpath into an obstacle course during the summer are long gone, allowing for a peaceful run. And although most things are harder to see in the nighttime, there are some spectacular sights nonetheless. It is a treat to run under the light of a full moon or on the Cambridge side of the Charles River footpath, with the lights from Boston's Beacon Hill and Back Bay reflecting on the river, creating a beautiful city skyline.

Running on a cold and dark night will also make you a more mentally tough runner. Summoning up the motivation to battle the darkness and the elements will make running a race in the broad daylight seem like a piece of cake. It can also create some memorable runs. Running in the darkness on a few brutal winter nights has created stories that my club mates and I often laugh about when we recall, although at the time did not seem so funny.

Upon further examination then, that last Sunday in October is not all bad. In fact, the initial adjustment is probably the worst part. And although it will not happen until next century now, we can always look forward to that Sunday in April when the clocks spring forward, adding another hour of wonderful light to the end of the day.

 

 

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