I never go running in the dark and I don’t run with music on anymore. Since the accident I make sure to go running in the middle of the day with no earphones in, fully aware of the track and my surroundings. I’m careful, always always hyper cautious, watching for potential accidents and dangers. The darkness scares me now, the unknown and the shadows reminding me of my fragility.
I’ve noticed a shift happening lately, something awakening in me and I felt it again as I stood at the window looking longingly out.
Just do it my insides said.
And so I laced up my running shoes, pulled on a jacket, opened the door and jogged out to greet the darkness of the evening that I usually hide behind the curtains. I popped earphones in and they blasted high tempo music that seemed to disturb the dusk like a stone landing in a still lake.
After a few cars had nearly blinded me, I veered left and off the road down a country lane. The darkness engulfed me instantly and I slowed my run to let my night vision catch up. When it did it made out ghostly shapes darting away from me on either side of the track, rabbits scattered as my feet pounded the earth, my breath coming faster and faster as I sped up.
Now on the deserted country trail, I pushed myself hard, I ran until my breathing was laboured and my lungs ached, I pushed harder still and I could barely hear the music over the sound of my heartbeat racing in my ears. I ran faster and harder until my body felt like it would break, until my legs begged for me to stop, until a feral sound escaped my lips as I pushed my limbs past their previous limit.
The moon suddenly peered over a mountain top as I rounded a corner and woke me from my trance. It shone on a wet patch of mud up ahead of me and I slowed my pace to avoid it. The spell was broken and I slowed to a walk. I pulled the earphones from my ears and stared up at the moon, letting my breathing return to normal, my body feeling more alive than it had in a very long time.
As I crossed the last bridge the clouds cleared and the moon slithered into the rushing waters underneath the bridge, making it look like millions of silver fish were swimming together. I had turned left again and veered off the track back towards the road when I noticed I wasn’t alone. The moon was behind me now and it had cast my shadow in such a way that it looked like someone was running beside me.
I slowed to a walk for the last kilometre and let my heart rate return to normal and my legs stretch themselves out. Shadow Sarah did the same and we walked the last stretch home in silence.
When I reached the front door the porch light came on and she disappeared into the night.
She took my fear of the darkness with her.
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