Gotta’ Run: Running in the early morning darkness!

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2022

Mention running in the dark to most runners and only a select few are big fans. I live in a rural area where I know most of the runners close by and all of us have seen each other on our favorite routes for years. There are two men and a woman that I consider good friends, but we don’t see each other very often away from the road. Our lives are very different during the day, but it appears that we all love the early morning run and as much darkness as we can get. We always speak, sometimes run a little way together and share a certain admiration for those who get themselves out of bed early.

We are all fans of the pre-dawn run; a sort of dark paradise we have in common. I’m such a big fan of running in the dark that I welcome the beginning of daylight-savings time, when an extra hour of darkness freedom comes back to greet us. More time to see the shooting stars and occasional wildlife. Just last week, I turned onto another road and thought I was running behind a black and white cat. Just as I realized it was a skunk, the animal headed back to the ditch. A fox and deer might be seen, but my favorites are the mornings belonging to the lightning bugs and the owl hoots.

I do know some of the reasons why my neighborhood runners go very early, but not all of them. Here are a few of the simplest reasons why I do it. I like the stillness and calmness of the morning, which includes the likelihood that any wind blowing won’t be nearly as bad as it will later in the day.

No matter how cold it is, I can add layers. Not a big fan of cold otherwise, running in it doesn’t bother me at all but I do count my ski-mittens (gloves without finger slots) and a toboggan as must-have enablers. I’ve written before about running in sub-zero cold and it isn’t all that hard. In fact, any morning run in snow becomes magical quickly. Ice is a different story.

Some people worry about not being seen by cars in the early morning. This shouldn’t be a factor or therefore an excuse not to do it. Reflective gear gets better every year. I have a pair of thin gloves now with reflective yellow between the fingers, and all shoes now have reflective strips built in.

There are just a few negatives about running at 5 a.m., or sometimes even earlier. Most people wouldn’t dream of dragging themselves out of a warm bed on cold winter morning. The humidity is likely at its highest during this time too, so summertime runs are done in the saturated air, causing some extra breathing and plenty of sweat.

Some studies show that morning exercisers have a higher success rate than evening exercisers. They believe this is because of a lack of interference of responsibilities in the early morning hours. Late meetings after work, kid responsibilities and other commitments are more likely to come up in the afternoon than early in the morning.

When the alarm goes off and the mental argument of whether to sleep in or run begins, which one will win? Every time you get up and run, you reinforce that behavior. Every time you bag it and sleep in, you reinforce that behavior. So, reinforce the behavior you want to win. My experience says that an extra hour of sleep while missing your run is an anchor for the rest of the day. That is why I seldom roll over when it’s time go out. Plus the post-run confidence factor and mental clarity are unbeatable!

There are no races locally in August, but we do have a SRR Prediction 5K Run at City Park on Saturday, Aug. 13. A large group of September and October races will follow. Check all of these at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org.

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