Lighting my way home.
Lighting my way home.

flickr photo by MDV

Since I’ve come to enjoy sleeping in a bit on weekends, I upended my usual routine on Sunday and did my long run in the evening. Usually I run through the nearby neighborhoods to get my miles in. But with 14 miles to get through I didn’t want to invite boredom by looping around and around the same streets again and again. Instead I decided to run through Golden Gate Park even though darkness was falling as I set out. It was quite dark out by the time I hit the Panhandle and moved through the eastern end of the park near the Hall of Flowers and the museums. In that part of the park, though, there’s a lot of lighting and you’re generally safe as long as your aware of your surroundings. But I was going to be running all the way down to the end of JFK Drive and then back up along MLK Jr. Drive, so I was in for a surreal, calm but slightly unnerving experience. There were a few other fellow sufferers about, but by the time I got to Crossover Drive I felt I had the park all to myself. Foolishly I pounded down the path even though it was so dark at times I occasionally couldn’t see the path itself, anything that might trip me up, or low-hanging tree branches. Sometimes I would come into a clear area and the sliver of moon would throw enough light to show me the way, but then it was back under the tree canopy, and I had to run the path from memory, picking my feet up slightly higher than I normally do to clear any unseen obstacles.

Shortly after the turnaround point I passed one other soul, and moments later experienced the spookiest part of my run yet. I followed a route which took me onto Middle Drive which overlooks the Polo Grounds and Speedway Meadows. For about a mile or so I was on a street closed to traffic with no one else around and moonlight barely lighting the way. I was well aware I was alone in an isolated part of the park vulnerable to anyone who might wish to do me harm, and I could hear in my head any number of admonitions against running through a darkened park on a cool fall evening. But I was having too much fun to care. I find the effect of running through a quiet park, day or night, calming and peaceful. It’s so much easier to focus on the essentials of what you’re doing-trying to knife through the air like an efficient running machine-with all of the normal distractions of the city stripped away. The park portion of the run behind me, I emerged onto the boisterous, crowded sidewalks of Haight Street and made my way home.

While I wouldn’t recommend everyone run alone through a cold, dark, urban park without wearing any lights or reflective gear, I had some wonderful meditative moments which helped propel me through a great run.

Leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.


8 thoughts on “Moonlighting

  1. Great post, Todd! I’ve had similar experiences running through Lake Washington Park in Seattle at night. The park is nowhere near as large as Golden Gate Park but you still get a good stretch of unlit road, closed off to any car traffic for the night. And I have to agree that the joy from these runs well warrants the risk. We’re faster than any would-be attackers, anyway ; )

  2. Thanks, Drew. I was recently up in Seattle and went on a run sponsored by the Seattle Running Company. You all certainly have some beautiful places to run up there. Hopefully I can take part in the upcoming Rock and Roll Marathon and take it in again.

  3. Dear Todd -While I have not run in the dark with God’s moon to light the way as you did, I have experienced being able to transcend the physical experience and feel my spirit self totally connected to Source. I can only imagine what it is going to feel like as we run Boston next April. It is such a blessing to connect with you and other runners who experience the joy of running. Thank you so much for your post and for also reading my blog. God bless and run safe!

  4. Hi Todd,

    I grew up in the city and as a kid, I remember how big Golden Gate park is. I was at the edge of my seat reading and enjoying the fact that someone still felt safe to run in a place I loved as a child. I hope to run there again soon, but it will not be in the dark.

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful words and enjoy Boston. I hope to earn my way there someday. As for running safe, I really should focus on that as the winter deepens and invest in some brighter running togs.

  6. What part of the City did you live in? Right now I’m in the Mission, but I’ve also lived in Hayes Valley and the Castro. I just love it here, and I feel so fortunate. And I just love running at night or in the evenings. I’m much more alert and awake, and I love watching people shuffling home from work or the cool kids heading out to socialize as I blow by.

  7. I usually run in the early AM and have come to love the feeling of running in the dark before most people are close to being up. Many people think I am nuts for doing so, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

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