Night Rats

a lit path

Running + night time + gloves does not equal the best photographic quality.

I had some time to kill Tuesday night before dinner and my work gym seems to be missing all three of its treadmills, so I headed out on a quick evening run.

Night running always makes me feel a little weird. Not nervous, exactly, but furtive. I feel like I’m doing something a little bad by wandering off into the dark to do something ‘fun.’ Like most things in life, I lay the blame for this squarely on my mother. As a kid, dusk was always my hard curfew when I ran around outdoors for hours on end. I used to see exactly how many more games I could squeeze into those little bits of sunlight before I (inevitably) ran too long, and I remember many an argument on what exactly ‘dusk’ meant in terms of sunlight on the horizon and number of fireflies that lit one’s way home.

Running at night alone adds to that little thrill of misbehavior by also making me feel very solitary. I’m just drifting forward, somewhat outside of time. There’s nothing to see, no one to talk to, no way to judge how fast I’m going other than through the sounds of my huffing and puffing. It’s meditative. Peaceful.

But what ho!

I am not alone! Look at all those reflections off the car lights!

night traffic

We’re all little rats, scurrying to and fro

Yup. For all my solitary navel gazing, there were dozens of other runners scurrying around the running path lost in their own little worlds. We were like little night rats, scampering across the street when there’s a break in traffic. We dashed from safe spot to safe spot, only to be seen when a passing headlamp happened to bounce a stream of light off of our reflective gear.

I think I like the idea of being a night rat. Even if we were all scampering back and forth on our own, it was a bit like we were really all together. After our run, we could meet again back in the warren and exchange tales the best smelling trash cans and where a neighbor had set down new bait.

sometimes, when I’m all alone and surrounded by darkness, it’s helpful simply to make up a community, too

I’ve never been a very good athlete on my own. My best personal performances have always occurred as part of being a member of a larger team. Triathlon is pretty much the opposite of a team sport; you not only compete all on your own, you also do the majority of your training on your own. I’ve always been particularly sensitive to the loneliness of that model. When things are going well, getting your workouts done alone can be peaceful and meditative. But meditative doesn’t inspire that extra bit of hard work and meditative won’t kick you in the ass when you need a motivation boost. Where I can, I find friends and local communities to help and support my training, but sometimes, when I’m all alone and surrounded by darkness, it’s helpful simply to make up a community, too.

So when I run, I am a member of the Night Rats. I run around, collecting information and stories to share with my other rat friends when I get back to the den. I can nod and squeak to my night rat team mates when we cross paths, and I know that we are both doing our part for the greater goal. This week: we finally chew all the way through Mr. Hooper’s trash can. Next week: the world.


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