I’m writing this on Monday night, December 14th. This morning I did something uncharacteristic for me for this time of year — I went for a long run at 6:15 a.m. And what an amazing experience to watch the city wake up. I’m used to early morning running in the summer, but it’s already light. And that feels completely different.
Sunday is my usual long, slow, distance run. But I didn’t make it out on Sunday. And if you’re from around here, you know that we are having a warm December so far. I mean really warm, scarily so: this morning when I headed out it was over 10 degrees C.
I donned my capris and a light top over a t-shirt — unheard of in December, especially before dawn. I mapped out a route the night before that would keep me on streets — too dark and early for the isolated pathway through the park.
I headed up through downtown in what felt like the deep of night. The sun hadn’t even cast a single bit of light on the eastern horizon yet. Running north through Old North, one of the older residential areas in London, I touched the edge of campus before looping south back towards downtown.
In the first half hour or so, I passed three people walking dogs, a young woman who looked to be on her way to work, and that was it. It was garbage collection day in Old North, but this was even before the trucks started out. In the second half of my run, I saw a man in a bathrobe dragging a garbage can out to the curb, and another man with a brief case and a brisk stride on his way downtown to work.
I noticed that the light had begun to change (from pitch dark to dawn) right around the time the Rocky theme, “Gonna Fly Now” (which got me through a slight incline without taking a tempting walk-break) gave way to “The House of the Rising Sun.” Until then, it had mostly been too dark even to look at my Garmin. But at that moment, morning had definitely broken.
I took a quiet route south until I found myself at Oxford, the major east-west street that divides Old North from Central London. By the time I got there, traffic had picked up. The closer I got to downtown, the more bustling activity surrounded me. People were still on the move — it wasn’t quite 7:30 yet so still a bit on the early side to start work.
Something about the perfect weather — I’d long since removed my ballcap and rolled up my sleeves — the energy of the awakening city, my playlist, and the preciousness of a day like this in mid-December gave me a boost. I felt my pace quickening. I rounded the corner just before my building and wasn’t quite at 10K yet, so I kept going, doubling back only when I knew I’d be at 10K by the time I got to my front door.
I stretched outside for a little while because it was just too beautiful to go in.
This was a real treat for me. I’ve been struggling with early mornings, missing my swims quite a bit and not feeling inspired to get out of bed. But I planned ahead for this one and I’m glad I did. It’s probably the last longer run of the season that is going to feel like this. No doubt when I get back from the Bahamas in January, we’ll have the winter weather we’re supposed to be having, the weather that we were all expecting when we had our tires changed last month. The weather that covers the sidewalks in snow and makes runners step gingerly or get injured or both.
Maybe this weather is on account of climate change, which makes it less welcome in a global sense, of course. But it’s hard to complain about it while it’s happening.
If you want to see a happy video of a city waking up in the morning, here’s “Who Will Buy?” from the 1968 musical, Oliver! (adapted from Dickens’ Oliver Twist and one of the first record albums I ever owned and played over and over and over):