Late Night Lights

Running, like for the pure sake of running, is about my least favorite form of exercise.  But what I do like about it is that it gives me a chance to free my mind, literally “get away,” and not think about anything but my breathing and my surroundings and whatever I want.

Recently, I moved to a new city, and my new house is walking/running distance from a local college.  I often can’t sneak away to exercise until after dark, and I find that on these nights my path frequently leads to this college campus.

And that’s probably not a coincidence.

No matter how late I go, you see, there are always lights on in the upper offices.  Usually just one or two.  But that kind of adds to it, somehow.  The solitary component.  They are alone and I am alone and we are together in our communal solitude.

Because of the angle, looking up several stories, all I can see as I jog by are top bookshelves (deliciously full of books), maybe part of a diploma or two, some plants (possibly), and usually at least a couple interesting-looking souvenirs (from what I imagine are exotic travels).

I hardly ever, if ever, see anyone in these offices.  But I know they are in there, and I always imagine that they are doing the most fascinating and creative things: writing novels, exchanging correspondence with far-distant, like-minded scholars (usually, in my mind anyway, in romance languages, in handwriting like calligraphy on expensive and old-looking stationery), reciting poetry, memorizing sonnets.  Never mind that they could be just grading mediocre student papers, or playing Solitaire, or maybe they are not even in there at all, and the cleaning crew has simply turned on the light to grab the trash can.  I don’t let these latter possibilities sully my imagination’s drifting.

As I continue my run, there are classrooms too, with lights on too, and here I experience a new kind of jealousy.  I always imagine that whatever they are learning in there is enlightening and exciting, and that, as an outsider, passing unhearingly, unparticipatingly by, I am missing out on something special.  But I keep running in sweet melancholic reverie.

Why do I feel like I feel?  Well, I have always felt this way.  I can remember walking home from the library or a late class, when I was myself in college, and seeing similar lonely lights, similar late-night classes, and feeling much the same way I do now.  I have never needed the passage of time to experience nostalgia; I can experience it instantly, prospectively even.

These late night runs remind me of my own experience, remind me of other nostalgic passings by.  They remind me of what I want to be doing and what my hindsight misses and loves and probably doesn’t perfectly remember.  I do hope that, at least sometimes, in those late and lonely hours, there is someone in there thinking creative, magical thoughts and feeling happy and fulfilled and excited and passionately, invigoratingly hopeful.

And I bet, at least sometimes, there is.

8 thoughts on “Late Night Lights

  1. So you DO run? Here’s my question: Do you listen to music while you run, or do you think it would detract from your think time?

  2. I do. Begrudgingly. Like I said, I’d rather be doing just about anything else. But it’s a good way to get outside, and you don’t need anyone else or any equipment, so I like that aspect. It’s convenient.

    As to your question, I don’t, but I don’t run all that frequently either. When I work out (lift weights, hit the heavy bag, circuit train, pull-ups) I ALWAYS listen to music, and that makes it a different experience. I don’t NEED the music, even then, I guess, but a lot of times those workouts are more strenuous/intense/painful, so I feel like I can use the motivation. With running, I am usually not pushing myself to the point of experiencing pain, I am just relaxing and clearing my head and enjoying the fresh air.

    If I ran more frequently, or more intensely, maybe. But especially if I am running at night and/or near traffic, I like to have my wits about me. I wouldn’t want to get jacked unsuspecting (but I kind of would think it was funny if someone did try to jump me, (a) because I don’t have anything on me when I run, not even keys, and (b) there is probably a good chance they would be biting off more than they could chew).

    Do you run with music? You probably do it a lot more than I do. What kind of music gets you pumped?

    • When I ran my final cross country race in High School, I said “I will never run another step.”

      Aside from playing on the school’s basketball team, I have pretty much stuck to it.

    • Yes, I try to run about four times a week. Although I have been running on the treadmill for quite some time now. There’s a little gym right around the corner from my house and I can take my kids there while I work out. The only thing worse than running, is running while pushing a humongous stroller and 70 lbs of kids. We also have horrendous wind here and that sucks to run in. Anyway, the treadmill also allows me to manage my pace, since I don’t have a fancy Garmin watch or anything. I always, always run “better” if I listen to music. I have to have stuff with a really heavy beat/bass. I’ve got some Black Eyed Peas, Britany Spears, Shakira…I like a lot of dancey/techno-ish (not too techno) stuff, but I have also enjoyed and been really motivated by AC/DC too.

      I have a love/like relationship with running. It’s one of the easiest and most convenient ways for me to burn a lot of calories (which is one of my main goals for exercise). Some days I hate every step and other days I love it, but either way I always feel good after I’ve done it. So I think that’s why I keep doing it.

      • Treadmills are another situation entirely. Actual running I can tolerate; treadmills, no way! As if running wasn’t boring enough already. Yuck!

        I used to run a fair amount, and I used to enjoy it much more than I do now. Like you, I recognize it’s not the most efficient way to burn calories, but being in really good running shape and going for a beautiful outdoor run can be very relaxing/invigorating.

        Actually, I would run more than I do, but a couple of years ago I was trying to get in competitive running shape, and was running more and more. On one particular run, my knee started really bothering me. I tried to push through, but it only got worse. I took it easy, and it kind of stopped hurting. But ever since then, every time I run more than a couple of miles, it starts acting up again, same spot, same pain. It wasn’t like an acute injury or anything; I don’t know what it is. And treadmills seem to make it worse.

        I should get it checked out. Maybe a knee brace or new shoes would help. But even if my knee was perfect, I would just rather do other things.

        • I actually just saw that you said it IS one of the easiest and most convenient ways for you to burn a lot of calories. OOPS!

          Any exercise is better than no exercise. But there are much easier/more efficient ways to burn calories. I have been meaning to write a “Calorie-burning benefits of strength-training versus cardio” article on here, which Dunce One would be more qualified to write than I would. But you should check it out; it will blow your mind!

          • Well, for me, it’s the easiest way. In comparison to what other things I could do, like say riding bike. I have started adding weights into my work outs this year though and I have no idea what calories that burns. You guys should definitely do an article about that! That would be great!

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