Wednesday night. 11:30 pm. Gainesville, FL. I am standing with 1200 people, mostly students, outside the stadium on the UF campus. It is an hour past my bedtime, I’m tired, and I’m getting cranky. I’m about to run a 5k with the clock starting at midnight.
I toe up to the start, near the front to avoid the packs of sorority sisters and drunk people. We head off into the night at exactly 12:00, campus completely shut down except for a few lights here and there. It’s dark; I cannot see where I am placing my feet and I know there are potholes on this road. The energy of the people around me, the wet smell of the South at night, and the lack of being able to see distance makes time fly. Before I know, I’m 15 minutes in and heading up the hill back to the finish line. At this point I am sincerely regretting my choice of bright blue metallic leggings; I’m sweating buckets. I see the finish, clock in at 21:05, and I’m still cranky.
My friends all roll in and we’re off to make the worst decision of the night: an all you can eat breakfast at the closest on-campus dining hall that came with the race registration. The instant I take the first bite, I know I’m in trouble. I eat everything on my plate anyway. It’s close to 2 am when I get home. I spend the remainder of the sleepless night curled in the fetal position fighting stomach cramps with Tums and ibuprofen.
As I write this, I realize just how wonderful it was to run that race at night despite the crankiness. The temperature was pristine for running (much welcomed with current 90 degree days), the crowd was friendly, and there was a whole new dimension to the world. The sort of feeling when you are running in the rain; some sort of feeling that doesn’t surface during a normal run. Just you, the night, and an eerie sense of peace that comes with running in the darkness. I just wish I didn’t eat all that food.