Sunrises and dolphins
The lunatic ran along the edge of the bay, under the just-risen sun. It was 7:30 in the morning, and the lunatic was just finishing his eleventh mile.
The lunatic hit a milestone just before the fourteen-mile marker. It was the longest distance he’d ever run. As if to celebrate the accomplishment, a pod of dolphins waited there, splashing in the sunlit water, just ten feet from the seawall.
The lunatic and I could not be more different. He had risen long before the sun, then traveled twenty miles by car, to go downtown and run along the edge of Tampa Bay. He planned to run fifteen miles – something most sane people never do in their entire lives, let alone at 5:30 in the morning.
I, on the other hand, had a lifetime devotion to sleeping in. On a Saturday morning at 5:30, or 7:30, or even 9:30 for that matter, it was almost a guarantee you’d find me in bed, sleeping off the activities of the night before, whatever they had been. And running? For such ridiculous distances? I’d much rather sit on my ass.
But the lunatic was up, and out, and running. He was running along the southern edge of Davis Island, by the airport, when the sun came up and washed the sky from starry dark blue to pale gold. He was seven miles and just over one hour into the run.
Why so early? Why so far away? Because the lunatic wasn’t alone. For several years, a local running group called the Blue Sharks has run the same eleven-mile route every Saturday morning starting at 5:30. The organizer, a former runner himself, drives ahead of the runners to set out water and Gatorade every couple of miles. At the first water stop, he counted the participants: “… seventy-eight… seventy-nine… eighty… eighty-one…”
Runners in training for marathons and half-marathons run the eleven together, and those who need longer runs extend their routes further down Bayshore Boulevard. The lunatic, today, was one of those going the extra distance.
I had known other people like the lunatic. I’ve had friends who were marathoners, who got up in the dark to run freakishly far. I would shake my head, firm in the conviction that I would never do something so ridiculous.
But then the lunatic took over. Now, I’ve run two half-marathons: Gasparilla and Blue Moon. I’m training for a marathon of my own in January. I need to get in long training runs of fifteen, eighteen, twenty miles in the next eight weeks.
So on a perfect November Saturday, I got up at 4:30 in the morning to join a bunch of other people of questionable sanity to run longer than I ever had before. I am the lunatic, and I run to beat the sun.