There was no need for an alarm this morning. My 11 month old still does not sleep very soundly. From my bed, I grabbed my phone off the dresser and checked the time. I canceled the alarm and laid in bed staring at the ceiling, fighting the sleep sirens calling me back to bed. Convincing my legs to listen to me, I ambled over to the pile of running clothes I had laid out the night before and started to pile on the layers.
Despite being dressed and ready to go, I sat down when I got to the top of the steps. Did I really want to do this? It’s twenty degrees out, and I’m beat. Maybe I can sneak a long run in later today. I sighed, silenced the sirens once more, crept down stairs, threw on my hat and gloves, grabbed my watch and flashlight, and stepped out into the cold.
I hate running in the morning. My legs are stiff, I am exhausted, and I am afraid of the dark. I could make out-and-back routes along the paved, main county roads, but with all the dirt roads, I cannot justify it. At times, I have taken to carrying a flashlight and sometimes I use it when the tree canopy along the back roads blocks sends me stumbling in the darkness. Now that winter has come, the morning fog has turned to frost, and trees have lost their leaves allowing the moon and stars to light my way, consequently the the flashlight is usually just a comfort blanket of sorts.
While 5:30 might not be termed ‘early’ by some, there is only a handful of folks waking up, putting their dogs out, and scraping ice from windshields. While I probably should not, the silent darkness allows me to tune into all the little animals rustling in the frost covered leaves. My first reaction when I hear the leaves is to look. The moonlight is usually bright enough to see shapes and sizes and tell me whether or not I should start shouting and run faster, or if I can keep plodding along.
As I passed through an aged field with ancient maples still growing along the roadside, the leaves began to rustle. It was not a heavy rustle, but it was light and a small brook was running along the road. I chalked it up to a weasel, but still looked to see if I could make out any sort of animal. When I turned I saw a huge lurking beast, barreling after me down the road. I panicked. My heart jumped, my stride shifted in an attempt to put some space between us, and I let out a primal growl found only in the depths of fear. And then I realized, it was just my shadow.