by Judith Belton
Over the past year, when I took on a fund-raising run of the length of Vancouver Island (you can find out more about this by going on FB and searching #marathonofhome), I discovered the joys of running in the dark. I was running my distances after and before work and on weekends and since I began the run in February, my run opportunities presented themselves with the darkness. I learned the basic safety rules of darkness running: wear reflective gear, run against the traffic, let someone know your route plan, be alert and aware of possible dangers.
The joys included getting your run done and out of the way before (or after) your regular-routine day, running unobserved and at your own pace and experiencing night-time the way most of the sleeping world was not. I heard owls, saw hares, sea otters, deer and raccoon families. The air I breathed (and it was so quiet at these times I could hear myself breathing and my foot-falls on the road) seemed more fresh and energized than it does in the day. Sometimes the stars and the moon seemed my only fellow travellers.
During this morning’s run on the track at Frances Kelsey Secondary School (recently named the Marilyn Sanford Community Trail) I counted three different owls calling to each other from the two stands of trees behind and beside the school. It was magical. Last winter, I remember running very early one morning at the start of a run around Shawnigan Lake (26.5 kms). I began in Shawnigan Village and ran west down Renfrew Rd. At one point I was running in deep darkness with tall trees on either side of me and the full moon spotlighting the middle of the road as I progressed. It seemed no one but me was up at that hour, though in some houses I could hear the diffused sound of music from radios and from other houses I could see the flickering light from TVs. Certainly no one but me was up OUTSIDE at that time.
As I turned left and south off Renfrew Rd., onto West Shawnigan Lake Rd., the moon was beginning its slow descent behind me. By the time I passed West Shawnigan Lake Park, the sun was making its appearance on the east side of the lake. On another run last winter around this lake, I began at the village again but turned left at the village centre and travelled down East Shawnigan Lake Rd. My route took me along the road that is bordered on the east side by the hills and inclines that roll west to the lake from the back of the Malahat. These hills deepen the night on the road. I ran in darkness for so long and the darkness was so profound, that when the sky began brightening, my run-addled brain couldn’t for a moment figure out what was happening. What IS that light? Where is it coming from? Ah, it’s a new day starting.