Every Streetlight a Reminder (4.8 miles)

This weekend we once again borrowed the car from Frankie and Kate (or Frankienkate, as Nat refers to them singularly), and yesterday I planned dropped if off back near their place in Ditmas Park and run home afterwards. I’d forgotten that I had a doctor’s appointment (to check on this lingering cough) and Mulzer had an appointment after that, and then it was time for dinner and Nat and Angelica’s bed-times, so I didn’t leave our apartment until 10:45, and I didn’t park the car on Rugby Avenue until nearly quarter after 11.

For the full context, I hadn’t gotten to bed until after midnight the night before, was up at 3 am feeding Angelica, then up for good with her and the dog at 5:30. And now, at 11:20, I was standing on the sidewalk five miles from home. It is times like this that I love how inconvenient the subways and busses are between disparate neighborhoods in Brooklyn, as there was no part of me that wanted to run those five miles home. I liked the idea of running home, but actually doing it was a bit more daunting. I had been forced to pinch myself while driving to keep from falling asleep, and for a moment I flirted with the idea of just taking the train home. I thought about waiting for the Q, changing to the shuttle at Prospect Park, changing to the C at Franklin Ave, then walking 8 blocks home from Kinston/Throop. And I started to run.

Do you need extra hours in the day? Take up running. Before my run home, I was exhausted, slightly stressed, nodding off at ever stop-light. The moment I started moving, however, I was awake. It was one of those early summer nights where the cool dark air descends after a hot and humid day, and my feet felt weightless as I skimmed over the sidewalks headed north. There were few people around – enough to make me not nervous, despite the hour, but only just. Were I anything other than a six-one male, I don’t think I would have done it, but as it was the solitude was transcendent.

Breath, foot-fall, the occasional passing car, the distant sound of laughter, sounds of a party drifting from an upper-story window, two women speaking in an African tongue I recognize but can’t name. The red glare of tail-lights, stop-lights, the flashing cacophony of an under-cover police officer speeding from one corner of the darkness into another. I skirted around the Parade Grounds and Prospect Park, too cautious to enter and follow the loop road for a few miles through the shadowed woods. My body felt so light, so free, my movement so easy that I toyed with the thought of taking of my shoes and just holding them as I ran, but the thought of unseen shards of glass or hidden bits of rusted metal kept me timidly shod. And thus, our consciousness of debris doth make cowards of us all.

As I turned onto the promenade at Eastern Parkway, I began to feel drowsy and let the sweet, comforting waves of sleep wash over me, my eyelids drooping my feet and legs shuffling forward unconsciously, running as on auto-pilot. I wondered if this was a small taste of the thin hours of an overnight ultra run, the world slightly unfocused and unreal while I felt I could simply run forever, endlessly, not conscious enough to know I should stop. This desultory reverie was dispelled as my toe caught on the broken lip of a slap of sidewalk; I stumbled, my feet raced to find their footing, and I was still upright and now completely awake in a rush of panic and adrenaline. Lesson learned for night-running: don’t get so caught up in introspection that you end up face-planting on the concrete.

After that, my last few miles were run wide-awake, and I even summoned up enough energy to sprint the last two blocks, finishing panting and slick with sweat in the cool night air. And here is where, if you want more hours in your day, the investment in running pays off, as I not only got the 44 minutes of my run when before I was barely conscious, but I got home at midnight wide-awake. I showered, then read a little while drinking my home-made iced chamomile-mint-green tea, allowing my body to singing with an electric excitement that diminished to the tranquil hum of the joy of exertion and accomplishment, tired but conscious, alive and yes, ready for sleep.

Distance: 4.8 miles          Time: 44:16

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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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