The secret world of long distance runners

I, not too long ago, seemingly lived a life in complete opposition to the one I’m living now, well, in regards to time anyways. I was, undeniably, a night owl, staying out as late as I possibly could while still functioning at work the very next day. Wage slavery be damned, I was set on sucking up all the best in life, which I once thought resided in the events that began far after the sun hit the switch on the sky. I’ve seen the car commercials. I know when people my age have the most fun, when it seems our biology lets loose its stores of energy, when the sun goes down and the streetlights go up.

The dancing starts when the floor goes dark. But I never liked dancing with pop culture. The conversation starts when the work is over, but I just wanted to finish my books. The people come out to play when they finally wake up, but…well, ok it took me as long to wake up as well. I only wanted to sleep away the passive mornings, when the rest of the city is still asleep or too tired to be exciting. There was essentially NO LIFE in the early hours of the day. There were only business suits relying on coffee in place of energy and the beginnings of scripted routines that I wanted no part of. I wanted liberation and action, bikes blasting through crowded trafficked streets choked with creeping cars, adventure in darkened alleys and hidden passageways, and I took it wherever I could. We stayed out late, whether in the streets or in coffee shops reading political communiques, sometimes writing them until the cup ran dry and the employees kicked us out. We resisted sleep and reluctantly woke up when we could no longer ignore the sun crashing into our studio apartment windows.

Then I had my son. And the unwavering force of human biology changed the game overnight. Gone were late nights on the town, replaced only with late nights trying to get August back to sleep, so I could do the same. Like the rudest of awakenings my entire scheduled flipped upside down and mornings became nights, nights became desperate attempts at sleep. Coffee became more valuable than gold. And before I knew it, I forgot what happened after 7pm. It took my biology quite some time to catch up, but slowly the forces of nature took effect and my mind responded to the new morning routines, essential to deal with my high-energy child raring to go as soon as his eyes opened wide from a massively full night of sleep. Things fell into place, but the energy and excitement of a hipster nightlife still remained within that unattainable realm that lay just past 7pm. When the daylight disappeared, so did my ability to see what happened in that darkened city.

Then I started running. And I turned the game on its head, where once mornings held only the struggle to get through the passivity until I could both create and comprehend the day, now I woke up with a renewed sense of purpose and preparation for, quite possibly, the most exciting part of my day. And I ran, sometimes far, sometimes fast.

Mornings became the equivalent of the hipster nightlife, until enough moments of superhuman effort coupled with stunning sunrises, air that went from chilled to soothing, and the ability to hit 8am with more energy than most conjure up with 6 cans of redbull at 1am…..everything changed. Nightlife became not only unappealing, but downright unmotivating. I lost the drive to search out the excitement in such an obviously passive effort. The whole charade is a delusion where overworked and emptied husks desperately reach into the dark, grasping for awkward moments of excitement that merely come and go with the effort. Theirs is never the guarantee we get from the morning routine of lungs and legs, sun and breath, power and strength.

The morning is more beautiful and more awe-inspiring than the city grid defined by dotted lines of streetlights ever was. The ability to run through dark into ever-increasing light at an equally ever-increasing pace dwarfs the chaotic action of clubs and streets shrouded in darkness.

You’ve got it all wrong. The night is empty, darkened to hide the saddened masses gasping for fulfillment, to hide their obvious shame and resentment. The morning is honesty, bringing light to our reddened faces, mouths gasping for the air that brings ultimate fulfillment in the completion of our physical task, of our ability to refine our bodies into machines built to always become better selves, to always surpass the person we once were. Every morning we find beauty and action unparalleled, unmatched, and in the shameless open….for no one to see.

For they sleep away the space where life begins.



9 miles w/ Michelle riding along side. Felt better and better and picked up the pace throughout. A solid run that built great confidence in my recovery. Looking better and better to get back into speedwork, possibly sooner than I thought.


Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ peanut butter, almonds, raisins, flax seed, banana), coffee
Lunch – Stir fry
Dinner – Tofu scramble w/ black beans in a spinach wrap, water
Snacks – salt and pepper chips, water, coffee, banana, orange, soymilk, emergen-c


Refused – The shape of punk to come


14 responses to “The secret world of long distance runners

  1. So glad you’re still blogging! I love your writing.

  2. Back from Vacation, Very cool perception!

  3. very nice post! i just picked up the new diane ackerman book today, dawn light, that looks like it very much jives with your sentiments. jealous that you ran some of the tecumseh trails this weekend, i’m planning to hit it up soon! do you have any recommendations on specific stretches of the trail, where to start, where to park, etc? did you do it all out and back, or were you able to create any loops?

    • I have not heard of Dawn Light (what is it about?), but did just finish Born To Run (loved it) and Murakami’s book (umm….yeah). Just starting A Race Like No Other. I’ll be back down South again this weekend and plan on running more substantial parts of Tecumseh. We camped at Yellowwood and jumped on the trail by the lake. It’s really only a small portion of the trail that runs into Scarce O’ Fat (which has that 1/4 mile vertical climb) that I ended up running before connecting with Tecumseh again. Next time I’m going the other way on Tecumseh in Yellowwood which essentially runs backwards up the race course. I’ll let you know what it’s like…do the same for me if you get out there.

  4. as cheesy as it sounds, the book is literally about dawn. diane ackerman is really good at taking one small subject and exploring its many possibilities, usually from a naturalist’s perspective.

    glad you liked born to run! i’m reading once a runner right now, finding it pretty steeped in machismo, but there are some dead-on passages that perfectly describe certain ways i feel about distance running.

    i’ve done low gap and three lakes at morgan monroe multiple times, and the lake trail loop at yellowwood (heard its been muddy as of late). is that vertical climb called high king or something? that’s gnarly. i ran the scare-o-fat trail once when i first got into trails and it totally slayed me!! i’d be interested to try it now.

    i’ll definitely keep you posted! i have a 20 miler scheduled for this weekend and may try to do it out on the trail, beg my mom to pick me up at one end. maybe i’ll see you out there!

    • I really like books that take a microscope to one subject…I find a lot of nature books do this. I’ll keep that in mind for sure.

      Once a Runner is good, but considering the type of running you do, I bet you’d like Again To Carthage MUCH better (i know i did). His writing style in Again to Carthage is much more matured.

      Yellowwood wasn’t too muddy this past weekend. THere were spots, but nothing real bad. And yes, the vertical climb is like High something or other…it’s so insane, but that, I discovered, is not part of the Tecumseh race, so we’re off the hook! I’d like to see that be part of a race though.

      We are probably heading down to Yellowwood again on Sunday, weather permitting, so if you are out there, I’ll look for ya! Heck, as great as the weather was this past weekend, I only saw 2 other trail runners out there.

  5. well, decided to do some deam trails because i know them better and everything is mucky yucky slushy sloshy and leaf-obscured right now… pretty awesome, but we definitely got soaked and mud-covered! beware, the two trails i’ve done in the past two days have been ridiculously sloppy!

    i’m actually getting into once a runner now that i’m closer to finishing it, but i’ll definitely pick up again to carthage too, thanks for the tip!

    have fun tomorrow!

    • Yeah, the trails were sloppier than I thought they would be…mostly on the car-driven fire roads. Those were hell on my ankles and I twisted one pretty bad, but was able to keep running. Man, Tecumseh is a monster! You’ve run this before right? I got lost like 10 times running the last portion of it today…but it was super fun. I sure hope those leaves are cleared/stamped down come race day.

      See you on the trails!?

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