Running Into The Light

AJW notes one of the first signs of spring he’s noticed during running.

By on February 3, 2017 | Comments

AJW's TaproomOver the past few years, as I’ve grown older and perhaps a bit more set in my ways, I have noticed a profound increase in the effect circadian rhythms have on on my mind and my body. These mysterious rhythms, defined by scientists as physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness, impact all living things and provide provocative insights into a wide range of behaviors.

For me, the most acute response I have to these rhythms is during the winter months when I sleep longer and more deeply, tend to move more slowly in all aspects of my life, and, at times, lack motivation for even some of life’s most basic tasks. Often, this general lethargy hits rock bottom in mid-January when the mornings are the darkest here in the Northern Hemisphere and everything just seems downright bleak.

And so, it is with great joy that, as I am currently emerging from my three-week running break, the daylight hours are extending and things are beginning to slowly, inexorably, perk up. Just this week, in fact, as I have worked my way through the ritual of my return to running, first with a three-mile run on Tuesday, then a relaxed four on Wednesday, followed by a brisk five miler yesterday, the glow in the eastern sky has emerged just a wee bit earlier each day.

Yesterday, as I hopped off my doorstep at my usual time of 6:15 a.m., I noticed the subtle light above the church steeples in town. Just two weeks ago, in that exact spot at that exact time, it was pitch dark. So, with that, I have to admit, I positively pranced down the road with more spring in my step than I had in weeks and ran a bit faster than I probably should have. By the time I reached the halfway point of my little five-mile loop here in town, the gentle glow above town had turned into a full-blown red and orange sunrise and once I had returned to my house and stopped my watch, I didn’t even need to push the light button to see my splits. I burst into a standing-alone-in-the-middle-of-the-street-on-a-random-Thursday smile. It was true, I was now running into the light.

Of course, I know it’s only February 3 and winter is still in full force. I am sure there is still a snowstorm or two on the way and the cold damp days of March are not exactly a picnic around here. But this week’s changes and the impact of yesterday’s run have helped me turn the corner and as I respond to the rhythms of body and mind I am so happy to have running to keep me centered.

Having a daily reminder of both my potential and my limits is so important to me that it provides purpose and meaning to the rest of my life. And, the sheer fact that I’ve emerged from the depths of winter, with its long sleepy nights and motivation-challenged days, gives me reason to believe that tomorrow will be a little better than today. And that alone, will, once again, get me out the door.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Knee Deep Brewing Company Breaking BudThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Knee Deep Brewing Company in Auburn, California. Known for their insanely hopped IPAs, Knee Deep also makes some more balanced stuff. Their classic, old school American Style IPA, Breaking Bud, is one such beer. Balanced, fruity, and just a wee bit bitter, Breaking Bud is an excellent and simple IPA reminiscent of some of the early classics.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • For those of you living in the Northern Hemisphere, have you noticed any of the first signs of spring showing themselves?
  • Do you ever struggle with rectifying the signals your body gives you during the winter to ‘hibernate’ and rest with the desire you have to exercise and/or spend time outside?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.