Night Running

By Jon Hillenbrand In Stories

Chicago Skyline green

I often run at night.  Yesterday, I went for a long walk. And when I was passing the beach, the cops came and shined a light onto the beach because it was closed.  The cop’s light illuminated a group of eight college students who were all crowded on top of the lifeguard tower. It was like 11:30 pm. Anyway, the cops P.A.d to them to leave so these eight teenagers all smoking all started walking toward the path I was on.  I knew I would perfectly intercept them so it would be like I was walking with them and soon they were all right in front of me. But right before we merged, a huge spider web that was floating on the wind swept onto me and clung to my hair, face and arms. All these guys walked up to me as I was rubbing my hands over my face and hair and arms over and over trying to get rid of the invisible web, not in a crazy frantic panic way, but more in a way that I was in love with my skin or on drugs or something. They glanced at me, didn’t really pay attention to me, but eventually stopped to let me pass them so they could smoke in peace.

So why do I run at night?  Maybe that’s weird.  Maybe I run at night because I don’t want people to look at me or see me and think I’m old or I’m the cliche of an older guy getting into shape or something.  I know in my honest moments that people don’t really care.  I mean, I look at people running by and mostly don’t give them a second thought.  Even people who surprise me with the way they look don’t impact me permanently; a second or two later and they are out of my mind.  Or I compare myself to them, but not in a judgmental sort of way, more of a, “where am I on my journey compared to them?”  So that’s most likely what’s happening with others when they see me.

In some ways, running at night sucks because of the endless spiderwebs, no joke.  I run through at least four spiderwebs every time I run at night, and that’s just not the case when running during the day.  I like the solitude of night running, like I’ve rented out the lake shore and it’s private time for me there.  Sometimes I look up and down the expanse of the lake shore and don’t see a single soul.  Sometimes I see dark people doing things in the shadows.  That’s not fun.  Like the time I saw a man trying, with a fury, to do a pullup on a random tree branch.  He had so much aggression toward his legs that the initial curiosity I felt as my mind tried to decipher the shades of ink and movement quickly turned to a panic that tasted like a battery.  Running in the sun, you just don’t encounter that.  It is nice and when I ran my 5K recently, the air was electric and alive, the sounds were louder, the crazy brave were doing their daily marathons and I felt more a part of something.  At night, the silence is welcome, but the solitude isn’t.  But none of it matters when the moon glazes the water on Lake Michigan and the wind and waves spread their rhythm like a frosting over my mind.

It might sound crazy, but I sometimes think of the world from the perspective of a visiting alien and I look at the beauty around me and think how wonderful and unique and precious the world is, moment to moment.  It can be really quite wonderful.

What do you think?