Outdoors · Running · Sports · Women

Steppin’ Out Under the Stars

I don’t normally run before work. Waking up when it’s still basically night-time just doesn’t strike me as much fun. But certain circumstances, like doctor appointments or car oil changes, don’t allow much scheduling wiggle room, and render a pre-dawn run a necessity.


Honestly, on the rare occasion when that happens, I usually say “eh…not worth it” and just take the day off from running. But when training for a race, as I am now, I become more neurotic than usual about regulating and limiting the number of calendar boxes that have a big slash through them.


I’ve discovered tricks, or maybe I should say rules, for early-morning running. Number One: Set out running clothes the night before. I’ve never officially tested my mental capacity at 4:15 am, but I have a feeling that the thought required to select clothing might be pushing it. Number Two: When the alarm goes off, get out of bed immediately. If I let myself lie there for 10 seconds or more, I can and will talk myself out of getting up. Number Three: Once out of bed, don’t stop! Don’t think about the temperature, or the fact that numerous constellations are still plainly visible, or that your pants might be on backwards. Whatever. Just get out the door.


Running before sunrise, unsurprisingly, is a heckuva lot different than running 12 hours later. I live close to a great pedestrian path, but to get there I run up a fairly busy street. Any other time of day, I stick to the sidewalk, but not so at 4:30 am. I take an almost perverse delight in running on the asphalt and then, when I reach the normally-hectic intersection I have to cross to get to the path, I sometimes run – !!! – diagonally across the whole thing. Just because I can.


Yep. Such are the things that amuse me when I’m outside before the sun rises.


One of the cool things about being out and about at that hour is the camaraderie felt with other exercisers, whether they’re running, cycling, or walking. There are typically about four of us. In passing, a wave is almost always exchanged (I think actual speech would be asking a little too much). It’s very similar to going out for a run right after a snowstorm, or in a downpour, and spotting another person. Kind of a survivor’s kinship.


The world is a very still place just before dawn. Running along through it forces introspection. Granted, running is good for that anyway, but thoughts become even more magnified when you can’t see anything around you. There’s no visual stimulation. During my last such run, I began to think about the half-marathon I’m running this weekend in Austin. Am I ready for this race? Can I run it faster than my last 13.1?  I’ll be training for a full marathon promptly after this half; am I ready, mentally and physically, for that??


Drowsily meditating on all of this, I was startled by a silhouette on a wall nearby – who was that? Where’d they go? Only to realize it was…uh…my own shadow. I ended the run laughing at myself.


I discovered some more rules for pre-dawn runs, and running in general: Relax. Don’t take things so seriously. And the run, the race – they’ll go fine.


17 thoughts on “Steppin’ Out Under the Stars

  1. Hi Running Sunflower,
    Congratulations! I LOVE running in the morning. The stuff about preparation is very true. I think that, if I switch my brain to automatic it is too “turned off” to actually question what I am doing.
    The buzz of the morning air is what gets me.
    Friends recently bought me a running lamp – you strap it to yourself and can actually see where you are going 🙂
    Have a great run this w/e.
    Which marathon are you preparing for and when?


  2. I’m just the opposite to you – love running in the early morning (especially if it’s dark) much more than any other time. Now that I’m doing some quite long runs for my training I do need the daylight and actually found I did really well on a (later) morning run last week. At least it gives you a chance to eat, and it was quite a novelty to actually have scenery to look at! So I’ve decided to do my long runs for the next couple of weeks in daylight!

  3. Great post Running Sunflower!

    I started doing boot camp 3 years ago at 6:00am every morning and eventually it led to me becoming a runner. I’ve become so used to waking up at 5:00am to get ready that it feels odd to me to run at another part of the day. I really appreciate the peace and quiet when running early. My neighborhood is particularly quiet and I see maybe 2-3 cars through the whole run. I do enjoy seeing other folks out exercising but what is really entertaining is when my run group crosses paths with a biking group and the “Morning’s!” start flying. If our group is a little spread out, the bikers will say “Morning!” to each one of us as they pass and of course we reply so I’m sure to someone walking their dog near by, it is entertaining stuff!

  4. I have recently shifted to pre-dawn workouts to accomodate my schedule and it has been SUCH a drag! A couple of days I even skipped it because I just couldn’t get out of bed and that’s NEVER happened before. Must be the dark winter mornings.

    Anyway, thanks for the inspiring blog!

  5. Running before the sun comes up sucks, but as a runner, you do what you have to do. And forcing yourself to do what you don’t want to do builds mental toughness.

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