Night Swimming

Print page

REM, those great musical psychiatrists, wrote many mournful and iconic rock anthems that have and will become soundtracks to our’ s and our children’s lives. One song in particular, ‘Nightswimming’, symbolizes to me, the beautiful peace we experience running on empty roads, while the world and their dogs’ sleep.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse.
Still, it’s so much clearer.
I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge.
The moon is low tonight.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I’m not sure all these people understand.
It’s not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
replaced by everyday.

Finding meaning, from broken lyrics written light years away from your own life experiences, by a possibly inebriated and fame-addled musician, is complicated.

REM’s album, Automatic for the People, will always resonate with me, as it was one of my Dad’s last albums that he bought and loved. My Dad was a great Comrades runner, a winner of 3 gold medals.

You see, I never knew my Dad very well, but I feel like, I am getting to know him better as my journey towards Comrades nears it’s beginning and end. As the seasons change and April emerged from March’s long shadow so we find ourselves running longer, earlier and in the dark for longer periods of time.

Humans have a schizophrenic attitude towards the dark, we either cower in fear or we embrace it and it’s freedom, romance and festive party spirit it symbolizes.

As runners we find, the lengthening shadows and shorter days that signify April’s arrival equate to mileage loading, running longer, ultra marathons and more aches than usual spiced with less sleep and a tepid social life. Chances are, that you have run in the dark, or will run in the dark, as you desperately add the last few kilometers to your running credit ledger.

Running for two hours before the sun shakes it shaggy head, as it finally erodes the last velvet shadows of the unrelenting night. Few things in life make you question who and what you are, as waking up at half 3 in the morning to go running with buddies does.

Usually, 5-6 of us run at these four am times, we don’t really even see each other to be honest. WE only glimpse one another, when we pass under the bemused fluorescent glow of silent streetlights and passing headlights of bemused motorists, who shake their heads silently mocking us from their cars as they move past us at 4; 15 am.

As, I have spent the past while running at early hours, I have tried desperately to capture my experiences in attempt to explain the simplicity and beauty of running while everyone sleeps and perhaps inspire you.

I had consigned my blog, to that abyss of ancient memories, lost socks and old girlfriends, that we remember fondly; yet conveniently edit out the angst and realities of those times.  My struggles with this blog finally ended on Saturday morning at about quarter to six.

At about 8km, Pierre a veteran of 12 Comrades or so, and I were chatting and he said, ‘doing this and being here is an absolute privilege”. For some time, I had tried to tie this post together and finally the answer came on a run, and not long after this revelation we were greeted by a sunrise laced with the dregs of yesterdays clouds, and all the sunrise wanted to do was swallow the world and come running with us.

As far as actual running goes, April has been tough and traumatic traumatic, but I achieved my goals of a C seeding and running Loskop Ultra, a weekend after my C qualifying run.

Loskop was a great run, even if it rained a bit much, and the hardest part was the 2-hour drive home. I have yet, to run such a well-organized race that also is a perfect microcosm of South Africa’s rural hinterland. While running, you pass the suburbanite who silently berates for waking them at 6 am on a Saturday, as you trundle through town and finally out into the farmlands. Later on, you pass the DA water point, then the ANC, followed by local government and scattered along the route you  pass impoverished rural communities who stil always cheer the loudest as you run past and lastly the boere, who stand stoically with their flask of branewiyn and slowly turn their boerewors and chops, as they silently judge us  ‘mad’ runners.

Loskop is a great race. I look forward to running it again and hopefully in the sunshine next time round.

As we all begin, to wind down and taper towards the big day. I hope everyone is injury and flu free. I plan on one more heavy week of running and from next week, I will be cutting my mileage down by thirds till race day.

I hope, by reading this, you learn to embrace the night and it’s freedoms. Think of yourself, as Batman, as you cruise through your suburbs and town’s forgotten hours and empty streets where only the cat’s eyes keep you company.

Avatar of Runners World

About Runners World

Online Editor for Runner's World magazine

5 Responses to Night Swimming

  1. Charlotte May 4, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    goosebumps. You are such a lovely writer Murray.

  2. Teri May 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Very well written! Good luck with the comrades!!!

  3. Shaun Wewege May 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    Excellent post. You have good taste in music!

  4. MyRun Australia May 5, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Apart from the great post, I wish I could swim that long! :)

    Good luck!

  5. alison May 7, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    Proud of you Murray and so will your Dad be shining down on you as you glide to the finish.

Leave a Reply