Waterside running at dawn

Most of us are drawn to bodies of water; ponds, lakes, rivers or seas.  My grandparents in land-locked Northamptonshire used to drive every weekend to the local reservoir, to walk the dog or sometimes just to sit and watch the water.

Water for me now makes the perfect focal point for a running route.  In Cornwall I’ll head for the beach at dawn and there’s nothing like it.  In Dubai, I joined other expats for a couple of laps (three if I could manage it) around the Springs lake.  My Hampstead Heath routes always pass by the ponds.

Water at dawn holds a special attraction.  It’s both calming and stimulating; never the same.  And the reflection of sunrise on still water makes the most amazing photos. Another dawn runner kindly sent me this incredible shot of his morning running route in Colwick Country Park near Nottingham.

 

Colwick Country Park, courtesy of @Darren0310

 

Frosty winter morning on Hampstead Heath

Frosty December morning on Hampstead Heath

I’ve been waiting for weeks for a perfect winter sunrise; a glinting, silvery scene with frosty white trees.  This time last year we were ankle-deep in snow, so I’ve been holding out for a quintessential Christmas card photo from my early morning runs.  No luck so far, but this morning did deliver a light frost and a crisp winter sky, and I left my usual route and ran uphill over crunchy frozen blades of grass.  This moment was my first sight of the rose and gold sunrise.

 

Chasing the dawn

I hadn’t actually intended to run this morning.  After a 10K club run last night, today was going to be a rest day.  However since I’ve begun this regular blog, I’ve become a dawn-chaser, obsessed with capturing the perfect sunrise!  Hence I threw on my running gear and literally sprinted up a hill to take this photo!

a couple of minutes earlier...

It was a magnificent morning; perfectly still and crisp.  Until I started running a few years ago, I only really appreciated the weather when it presented an opportunity (or frustrated an attempt) to organise something like a picnic or a barbeque and never gave it much thought beyond what to wear or whether to take an umbrella out.  I would have given a glance at a cobalt blue Autumn sky or a spectacular sunset, but I would never have seen a view like the one I saw this morning.

We used to run our whole lives by Nature, from sunrise to sunset, but modern life has conspired to take us away from it.

Go out and fill your lungs with the bright air of dawn, and whatever you thought about your day when you woke up, I challenge you to think the same way about it when you get back.

The science of sunrise

Reflections on sunrise

 A glowing pink sky is one of the greatest rewards for getting up and out on an early morning run.  Sometimes it’s a fleeting moment, and the rest of the day (like today) can be awash with grey cloud and drizzle.

During the recent unseasonal spell of early Autumn warm weather in London, I saw fellow joggers literally stopped in their tracks staring at the dawn sky with wide-open mouths. On the most stunning days, our favourite viewpoints will be shared with photographers who’ve seen the sky and grabbed their kit to catch the moment. 

Like surfers seeking the best waves, there is a 21st Century online approach to predicting a “wow” sunrise, as well as traditional weather lore, though there are as many variables determining the colour of the sky (the amount of dust in the atmosphere, levels of humidity, types of cloud and time of year to list just a few) as the size of the swell so it’s far from an exact science.

In the UK, Autumn and Winter are generally thought to yield the most impressive low-sun colours, and a morning forecast for some cloud is often a good signal for a memorable photo as the cloud catches the first light and reflects the sunrise pink and gold.

Being just a few minutes late can mean missing the whole show.  It’s easy enough to get accurate sunrise timings (for instance www.timeanddate.com), though these are calculated as the moment the sun would break a perfectly flat horizon at precisely sea level and the dawn sky begins to lighten some time before that, so you have to rely on your own local observations over a few days to be out in time.

A morning run on World Mental Health Day

A moment of calm

When I stopped here on my sunrise jog this morning, I didn’t know that today is World Mental Health Day.  I stood to take this photo thinking that it hadn’t been a daft idea after all to set up this blog (this is only Day 2!) because this was a moment worth sharing.

My snapshot is a very poor substitute for the reality of being outside in the freshness of dawn and being present to witness a moment that only a few others will see today.
 
I’m fortunate not to currently be one of the 25% of people (at a minimum) who are struggling with mental health issues, however I know I’ve benefitted enormously from a habit of morning running.  I’ve been running only for a couple of years, and I haven’t always managed to stick to my routine, but the difference to my outlook and energy is immeasurable.
 
There is no shortage of evidence on the benefits of running on mental health.  This document from the Mental Health Foundation answers some useful questions: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/content/assets/PDF/publications/up_running.pdf.  And a quick search will turn up lots of examples of people who credit running with having helped them through a period of depression.
 
I think there is a particular benefit to getting out and running in the morning.  It takes a while to get accustomed to early morning exercise (I always forget how wiped out I’ll feel to begin with!) but once I do, I find I’m brighter and more energetic during the day, and I sleep better at night.  There’s no time to lie awake worrying about what might happen today.
 
Routine is key, and I also think it’s much easier to stick to a morning routine.  Your time first thing is more likely to be yours, before anything else can stake a claim on it.
 
It’s hard but it’s worth it, and you won’t be alone!