Yesterday morning I ran through a forest in pitch darkness for the first time. I had a headlamp, a general sense of direction (uphill), and the knowledge that friends were just out of sight up ahead.
When I left my house it was dark as night in the city, which really means never darker than the dim glow from diffuse streetlamps and other light polluters. I ran nearly a kilometer before meeting my fellow #nopasoparungang members at the intersection of Frederick & Stanyan streets.
From there we ran half a mile up Stanyan’s steepest segments (240 feet elevation) to Belgrave Ave and the eastern edge of the Mt Sutro Open Space Preserve. Undaunted by poison oak warning signs, we leapt onto the narrow dirt forest trail. In mere seconds we disappeared into the dense woods, the city glow faded, and our headlamps barely lit the trail ahead. Anything beyond 10 meters was nothing but gray shapes blending into darkness.
Our gang of four split into lead and tail pairs, and we soon lost sight of the lead headlamps. We didn’t bother navigating by mobile, even the dimmest of backlighting would have been blinding. Whenever the trail split, we chose the uphill path.
Not only was the forest darkness pierced only by our headlamps, it was silent except for the sounds we made, breathing, pounding the trail, rustling leaves, snapping twigs.
The lead pair rejoined us from behind, having taken a wrong turn and doubled back. We emerged from the south side of the forest onto the street and found the few other @Nov_Project_SF early gang arrivals who took our photo.
Now seven strong, we hiked up Johnstone drive just a bit and ran uphill onto the East Ridge Trail, again leaving civilization behind in just moments. We ran all the way up to the Mt. Sutro summit, to a clearing formerly used for Nike Missile Control Site SF-89C.
Looking back through the dark forest I could see dawn’s light in the East.
From Fredrick & Stanyan we had only run a mile, and yet the second half of it through pitch black woods, and 400 more feet of incline for total of 640 feet of elevation gain.
Tapering for this weekend's race, once I reached the summit I did reps of planking, tricep dips, pushups, all while swatting perhaps nearly 100 mosquitos. Everyone else ran up & down the ridge trail and others nearby. A few more runners found us during the 30 minute hills workout.
Afterwards we ran back down to the meeting point on the street, and hugged the 6:25am arrivals. Then we did it all again, this time in the sunrise lit trails below.
This is November Project San Francisco #hillsforbreakfast. We run through poison-ivy laden mosquito-infested forests from darkness through dawn and into the sunrise.
Why are we shushing with our fingers? We heard from a concerned hiker that "the sound travels really far" out of the forest (which is odd, because the sound from the city doesn’t seem to make it into the forest). For more, see: NPSF: Do you know what it feels like to be 90 years old?