Actually, I just had to grin on my run tonight, in the moments when I wasn’t actually a little scared. A little fear makes for an interesting middle of the run. Oh, so let me back up some. We’ve had a pretty dreary day in Boston today, and the evening was no better. At close to 10 pm, it was drizzly and 95% humidity, though thankfully only around 65 F or so. I pulled on a hat and decided to go for a long, slow run in the most well lit, busy streets. Usually Sunday morning runs are empty; I kind of assumed that Sunday evening runs would be almost as good, in a sense.
As I made my way down the familiar streets of my neighborhood, I was feeling good and taking it easy, and I knew I’d be in for a long run. I wasn’t entire sure what the turning point would look like, but I figured I had some time to calculate all of that. Night time is not the time to be exploring unfamiliar streets of downtown Boston. Closer into the heart of the city (Kenmore Square for those who know), a guy leaned out as his buddy’s car passed me and he yelled emphatically, “Why are you running, jackass?” Bear in mind — I was just running on the sidewalk, minding my own business. I didn’t cut them off, and there were definitely no other runners (on the entire run, actually). I couldn’t help but grin stupidly at this brilliant question. Why am I running? Is running what makes me a jackass? I had to reject the latter conclusion and decided I’d probably have to revisit that question another time.
The question stuck with me for a couple more miles, and all of the little bits of wisdom I’ve read about running sprang to mind. Running is a privilege. We run because we can run. Run to run. Run to breathe. Why not? Soon I found myself running along the fountain at the Christian Science Center and headed toward a less familiar area of the city. I passed shadows of people and the rare, fancy restaurant that kept its doors open for hotel guests who were wandering around late at night. More than a few folks were clearly walking home from their night shifts at work. As I passed a guy standing under an awning out of the rain, he encouraged me calmly, “Run, Forrest. Run.” Still good advice today.
I soon found myself running slightly faster through Chinatown, a place I’d rather not go in the daytime, let alone at 11 pm. Not to be overly dramatic, but people appeared to lurk in every dark corner of every building in Chinatown, so I would normally have been happy to have passed through, except I eventually found myself in an unknown part of downtown. I managed to start running on a bridge (Evelyn Moakley!) where the water level beneath was unusually high. The wind throughout the run was whipping trees and howling, but the water movement was rather unsettling, and the wind on that bridge was particularly strong. I had no real idea of where I was. As I ran across the bridge, I wondered if I would see something familiar at some point, which is what usually happens when I get lost in Boston. Unfortunately, the signs directing me to the airport were not exactly comforting, and neither was the T station I had never — in 3 years of living here — heard of.
At some point I made the executive decision to turn back over the bridge, and when I returned to my last turn, I wandered North toward the aquarium area. As soon as I saw the buildings of the financial district, I knew more or less where I was and followed their outline toward Quincy Market. I ran passed Bill Rodger’s shop and eventually headed down toward the Boston Commons, following a crowd of college students into the park. Finally I headed home, running down Beacon St back to Kenmore, and taking the opportunity of empty streets to run on Commonwealth.
I love running at night. Granted, you don’t really see a lot. There are fewer cars, though sometimes more dangerous drivers. You don’t always feel safe. You hear strange sounds that you might not have noticed in the cacophony of the day’s activity. When the entire city is going to sleep, you’re keeping up the pulse of the city with your footsteps. You get to focus on your motion. You get the feeling you’re the only runner out running at midnight, among Boston’s thousands of runners. It’s kind of addicting.
* I feel a responsibility to mention that I don’t recommend it. It can be dangerous. Run in well lit areas. Run with others. Women: please never run alone at night. It’s not worth it. Instead, call me; I’ll run with you.