Running in the dark



Running along London streets early one autumn morning; I find park gates locked, bus stops occupied by middle aged women, standing with their heads placed forwards against the plastic, actually asleep. My route is the descent of a hill falling down towards the Regent Canal. The road beside me is almost empty, save for the slow meandering sound of the night buses delivering cleaners to central London offices. My feet almost slip on the skeletons of rotting leaves. I abbreviate my stride, shifting my weight forwards onto my toes. Even nature is still asleep.

Passing a weekday nightclub, the few departing dancers (silver dress, faces stained with fluorescent paint) are outnumbered five or six to one by minicab drivers, stood in a circle joking and clapping their hands to conserve the heat.

And then the sudden joy: I am running along the canal, there are no more lights. In the day this is a cycle route; now it is still. The morning is unequivocally dark. Through the tunnels, beneath the bridges, as I pass, I cannot see the moisture of my breath forming in clouds before me. I do not even have the chance to inspect the ground beneath my feet as they strike against the concrete path. I have to dare myself to go on. A younger me would have rebelled at this point and stopped and returned home to bed, I do not. I tell myself there will be no bottles or discarded glass. And there are none.

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