I have read most of ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes’ books over the summer. If you don’t know who he is, Google. He may be a shameless self-promoter, but I like his sense of adventure. One of the quirky things he does frequently is put the family to bed and then go out for a run…until sunrise. It just happens that, like Dean, the best time for me to go run is after everyone else has done their thing and gone to bed. I haven’t run all night (yet) but I have gotten in a few late night long runs.
My neighborhood is next to a multi-use trail that circles an area of the Ross Barnett Reservoir known as Pelahatchie Bay and this is my usual route for a long run. The loop, beginning and ending with my driveway is 11.5 miles. For your enjoyment, I share a few highlights of my latest (as in most previous and also as in the latest I have ever
left for a run) long run.
Saturday, my wife and daughter went to see the late showing
of “The Help”. My 10 year old boys put themselves to sleep the same way they
always do…fighting over the XBOX because “He won’t let me win” with me yelling
at them to stop yelling or else I’ll come in there and … do … … … something.
In between refereeing arguments, I watched the beginning of a really old and
not so really good movie called… “Running” starring a very young Michael
Convinced that any average Joe would be able to make the
Olympic trials in the marathon event (but apparently after his marriage falls
apart and his kids lose respect for him), I was all ready to go out for a run.
If only someone were home to make sure the boys don’t get up and start yelling
at each other…or at least to yell at them to stop yelling whenever they do.
Robin got home in time to save me from watching the entire
movie (and from finding out whether Michael makes it to the Olympics…don’t tell
me if you’ve seen it, I recorded it for later.) I explained that I was going
for a long run and would be back in a few hours. Of course, my wife volunteered
to stay up for me in case I needed someone to fix a Ovaltine/protein recovery
shake and massage sore hamstrings. At least, I think that’s what she meant by
“Don’t wake me up when you get back.” That’s when it occurred to me that I
didn’t have a clue as to what time it was. 11:30 pm. At least it’s still
Oh, almost forgot Robin’s other words of encouragement…”It’s
raining.” “It’s what? Raining? Like, with thunder and lightning or just with
drops of water?” No matter, I’ve got my gear on by now and ready to hit the
road. As hot as it has been this summer, a few drops of rain will be welcome. A quick check that I have everything I need, including a ziplock bag to keep my phone dry in case I need to call from, I don’t know, Vicksburg or something (You never know, I might
feel like running ALL night) and I’m out the door to discover…the rain has
stopped and it didn’t cool anything off.
I click on my headlamp, reset the timer on my Garmin watch
and Olympic trials, here I come.
A special thing about running at night is the encounters with
wild life. I’ve stared down a growling opossum at 10 paces, chased a few
armadillos into the woods, thrown rocks at alligators (from a bridge…I’m not
crazy), seen giant herons with 10 pound catfish hanging out of their mouths, and
run face-first into spider webs that could double as fishing nets. Except for
the heavy steam coming off of the still-way-too-hot asphalt that turned the beam of my headlamp into a light sabre that would make any Jedi jealous, the first few miles of my
adventure started off like pretty much any of my previous night runs.
Soon, I would realize, what I had experienced previously was
only native flora and fauna. I would encounter this night’s wild life partying hard in the
back yard of a house across the highway from the trail. An entire pack of party animals was loudly singing in unison (but not in tune) to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”. As I near the house where the revellers are now switching the porchlight off and on to create a cheap strobe effect, the “trail” makes a turn onto highway 471, where it becomes a bike lane – nothing more than a
shoulder of the highway with only a thin white line to keep drunks in large
trucks from mowing down the idiot in the headlamp.
Times have changed and Sunday beer sales are now legal but the old habits of these simple creatures die hard. At 11:59 (just like every Saturday night before), they all
pile into the bed of a four wheel drive monster truck with a confederate flag
flying from the CB antenna and rev the engine up like it’s the start of the
Talledega 500. I am about to witness the ritual known as
“Beer-run-before-they-stop-selling-at-midnight”. One problem…with my headlamp
on, my cover is blown. I just keep running and hope they mistake me for someone
No luck. The truck swerves close enough that I feel the wind
from the giant mud tires just before I hear someone yell “WOOOOooooOOOOO!
GET IT!” Or did they yell “Get HIM”? “Just keep running…just keep running…”
Surely, there is nothing more out of the ordinary for these creatures than a guy
wearing shorty-shorts and a backpack with a headlamp strapped to a visor (I have
my reasons) running on the side of the highway at midnight. Fortunately for me, the natural urge to complete the last second beer run is strong. They didn’t come back for another try.
This encounter had the unfortunate effect of making me
realize that I am not just out for a late night run, I am out for a late night
run on Saturday night (now Sunday morning). I instantly become suspicious of
every headlight on the road. Mama always told me (and, I admit, I’ve tried my
best to prove her right) that nothing good ever happens after midnight. If
there is a car on the road, in my mind, they are either drunk or sleepy, or both
and I am an easy target.
The bike lane becomes a separate trail again and
except for a long distance glimpse of the beer store at Grant’s Ferry, I
avoid contact with wild life for several miles. But eventually, I have to cross
Northshore Parkway. At one o’clock in the morning, the watering holes at Mac’s Gas, Polk’s, and Chevron were empty as I passed by so you would understand if I thought I was, finally, the last person awake in Rankin county. Not so. With less than three miles left to go, I encounter some of the strangest wild life yet.
A convertible full of guys stop behind the crosswalk at Northshore Parkway to let me cross (or to deny me a much needed rest). Nobody ever stops at this crosswalk – even when it is daytime and I am in the middle of it, so you would understand if I thought “They must be runners too.”
It didn’t cross my mind that they might be lovesick party
animals that got turned down at last call. Well, not until they started
whistling. That’s when I remembered…shorty-shorts. Not your average 7” or even
5” inseam running shorts…I have on 3” shorty-shorts that no man should ever wear
(except maybe on a mid-night long run). I get the sick feeling they agree and
must think I am NO MAN. That’s when I save myself by reaching into my jogging
bra and pulling out the bear mace. No, just kidding…I don’t have any bear
The rest of the story is really not much fun to tell. Well,
except for the brief moment where I burped up Vanilla PowerGel and…just a
little…vomit too. No story there, just wash it back down and keep going. That’s how we all-night running ultra-marathoner wannabes roll.
See y’all on the trail soon!