Friday, December 3, 2010

Running after work in the dark

The chill in the air makes my nose run a little, but it feels good after the stuffy heat of the library. The sun set about 10 minutes ago, and I can see into all of the lit business and shop windows in town as I run along the sidewalk. Concrete sidewalks make for a hard, unforgiving surface to run on, but I seem to be able to spring off the ground so much easier from it that I feel fast. There really aren't that many people out and about. I am still cautious when crossing streets, though, because even decked out in reflective gear, I can't tell if cars can see me or not.

I turn toward a more residential section of town and focus on a section of brick sidewalk ahead, which dips and rolls in bumpy waves from the tree roots beneath. The street-lamps provide just enough light for me to high-step over the bumps and cracks. I keep going straight for a few blocks and start getting into a groove. I don't feel cold anymore, and I might even be taking it a little fast for an easy run.

I turn at the church on the corner of 4th Street and enter the quietest part of the neighborhood. The houses here never seem to have much going on. Maybe the southwest-style place with the tiki hut and plastic palm trees in the backyard has some activity in the summer, but in the fall and winter, it looks sad and out of place among the old Victorian buildings around it. It is one of the only houses along my route without a sidewalk, so I hop up onto the grass to avoid a car coming my way.

I run down another block before turning again. Here I start to see a lot of houses that are decorated for Christmas. I feel a little tired now. I probably did start out too fast, so I take it down a notch and look around at the lights and glowing reindeer. A dog barks at me from one of the houses, but I don't worry about it. The houses are so close together here that people always keep their pets fenced in or leased.

The road ends, and I turn into a fairly new housing development. Here the houses are modern, and almost every single one is decked with lights and lawn ornaments. The people who live here are coming home from work. I see them as they get out of their cars or string a few extra lights on the porch. The glow from inside the windows looks warm and comfy, but my legs are fully warmed up now, and I feel good running by in the cold.

I follow this road through to the end of the development. It empties out onto one of the main roads through town, right by the high school. I wait for the traffic to clear before dashing across and starting on the last leg of tonight's run. This is a straight shot, and I push a little harder knowing that I'm almost finished. As cars come up behind me, I see my own shadow against the fence growing clearer as the headlights get nearer. It's almost strange to be running alongside this shadow me. I run faster and see the shadow looking straighter and more purposeful. It looks strong and fast. I break the cadence to leap off the curb at a road crossing and back up on the other side, but my legs feel nimble now, and I can maneuver over the curbs and uneven sidewalks without losing speed.

When I lift my eyes up from the ground, I see the library up ahead. This is very familiar territory now. How many times have I had to park my car around here because the parking lot was full? I continue just a little way past the now nearly empty lot and turn at the corner to come around the library from the front. And jogging up to the side entrance, where I will go to collect my things and head home, I end another after-work, after-dark run feeling strong and exhilerated.

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