I lie here within the walls of my house feeling warm, relaxed, and safe. Never do I enter a room wondering what may lurk around the corner. A bang must be the kids playing upstairs. Those eyes staring at me as I sleep at night are either one of my dogs or cats. That voice talking quietly late at night, my wife connecting with old friends. I have little to fear while I sit in the comfort of my home. But when I step outside in the wee hours of the morning or late at night well that is a completely different story.
Becoming a runner, and especially a trail runner, the reality is you are going to run in the dark. Unless of course you work nights, self-employed, or are a seriously talented and desired blogger. For the rest of us we put on that head lamp and head out the door at all sorts of crazy hours. This is just reality.
As we exit our house with little beam of light set on our heads we leave the safety of our home behind. That little beam of light only allows us to see the path straight ahead. But as our vision decreases our imagination grows. The mind starts racing, it truly can be creative with the thoughts it comes up with. Doesn’t matter if you are an urban runner or a mountain explorer something changes.
In the city it may be that person you are approaching who doesn’t look up. Hearing voices around the corner arguing. The person all sketched out on drugs having a bad trip. Homeless people are sweet and harmless, but mental health is unpredictable. The drunks hooting and hollering. Let’s not forget in suburbia the ever present dog loose in the yard. Did I even mention the coons. Our mind interprets all this as risks, risks that can cause fear.
Now racoons on trails, no big deal, we are now facing a whole new world. Once we enter the forest it is no longer the world of man but now ruled by the animal kingdom. During the day as runners we might sense some excitement when we hear a noise in the woods. Our hopes being that we might catch a glance of a deer, moose, or even a bear. But at night that cracking stick, well we know one thing, it isn’t another person. Yes, as the song by Meek Mill it is now All Eyes on You. On that ridge it may be a cougar, the eyes in the bush a bear, the howling of a lone wolf. You just entered their house. Even that squirrel, yes he is eyeing you up.
Fear is a belief that something harmful can happen, but this doesn’t mean that it will. Most of us have spent a great deal of time heading out long after or long before the sun is out. Having fear does not stop us from training to reach our goals. It doesn’t limit us from seeking races that run through the night. If anything it toughens us. We realize the only thing to fear is fear itself.
So next time when you’re heading out for a night of running either on the trail or in the city, don’t worry you are not the only one who may be feeling slightly afraid. We all are.