Full of the joys of spring

Unfortunately so is the dog. 

Hence this morning I’m straight up and out of the door at 6am, even though it’s a Saturday and I’d normally have a little more leisurely start.

We avoided any awkward encounters with potential canine love interests, and got to enjoy the first still moments of a perfect spring day.


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.


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!

Good morning, world!

Just for us

This blog began as a 30-day challenge (http://the30daychallenge.com), when I finally decided to stop thinking about it and start doing it! 

It’s the realisation of all those early morning moments when I stood to catch my breath at the top of a hill that I’d just run up and thought “I wish I could capture this sunrise” or share this little inspiration.

The photography isn’t meant to be technically brilliant, and it isn’t – not least because I’m normally out of breath and can’t quite keep my hands steady!  And I like to run light – no water bottle, no iPod, no backpack; so just me and a compact camera and the hope that I’ll remember whatever thought has struck me when I get back so I can drink some coffee and scribble it down!

There are many reasons I think it’s worth getting out of bed for an early morning run: seeing a new day from the very beginning, getting closer to nature, finding a still moment in a busy city, feeling enlivened and productive (and quite smug) for the rest of the day… 

What fascinates me most are the other people who are also out and about and pausing to take in the view.  Dragging myself out of bed sometimes it might feel as though I’m the only person up at such an hour, but I never am.  We’re a club of sorts – we meet or pass at the same place most mornings before we continue on to lead the rest of our day. We have in common only that we’re 6am joggers.

If you are a fellow 6am jogger (or a 6am powerwalker, or dogwalker, or early morning exerciser of any description), or if you’re an early morning photographer who actually does get up and about with the full kit and captures better scenes than I do, please get in touch and I’d love to add your thoughts and images too!