Magic Nighttime Run

I rarely run outside at night anymore. But tonight the dreadmill was not appealing, so I decided to enjoy the cool night breeze and go for a 3-mile run in the neighborhood.

I followed the route of my standard Astoria Park route, which I've always run at 6 in the morning, when the air is hazy and a bit misty--it's very quiet. The turbulent waters of Hell Gate are normally still at that hour, and the tide recedes to show all the boulders that line the shore. There are rarely people around. Across the East River, you can almost feel the city waking up to the fact that the sun has risen, again, and that it must start the day. Even as I run under the Triboro Bridge the echo of traffic has a muted quality to it, as if the bridge is too groggy from the night to allow the full noise. Hushed--that is how I would describe the morning run on this route.

The same route, 14 hours later. It is surreal. It is dark, and the golden yellow street lights float and dart behind trees, almost like glowing fairies. There are people all along the route. But since it is so dark, they are faceless. During the whole 3 miles I cannot make out a single face. The waters of the river have swollen, hiding the river rocks and causing currents that go in so many directions that I'm surprised the water could ever find its way out of there. The city glows, literally: the concentrated bright lights of Manhattan reflect off the low-hanging clouds of the humind night. The skyline is razor sharp, each building with its own pattern of lights up its facade. The view is crowned by the necklace lights of the Triboro Bridge.

As I pull into the track for the final quarter-mile, I see backlit figures dashing around the track--it's dark enough though that they don't even necessarily look human, more like legs moving quickly without bodies. The dense tree population in the park makes it feel like I'm in a forest clearing, since any surrounding buildings are blackened out. As I finish the run and start my 100 meter repeats, the night fills me with a new energy and I float through the repeats. I hammer out the 100s, passing every indistinguishable face on the track and blurring the barely-lit world.

I exit the park and pass under the Triboro Bridge again. It is awake now--fully awake. The evening traffic does not ease as it tears down the ramp onto the expressway. And it seems louder now than it could possibly be--louder than car traffic should be. Underneath the bridge it sounds as if a herd of giant horses has been set free from Manhattan and is now stampeding over the bridge into Queens.

And that was my night.

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