For the past three weeks, I’ve been rising when the green numbers of my clock flick to 5:10am. The air is still cool when I step out of the house, dressed only in shorts, a tshirt, and sneakers. Above, the sky is still dark, often speckled with stars. Orion’s Belt glimmers down at me, bringing some calm to my heart. My so-called lucky star juts from the Belt and I would often stare at it as a child, head pressed against the car window on drives home from dinner or relatives, the heavens and coolness of the glass relaxing me before slumber.
Instead of sleep, the sight of the star begins my run. If the breeze is right, the calls of howler monkeys can be heard as I step onto the street. Their cries mingle with the sounding off of roosters. It is a common misconception that roosters only crow at sunrise. In fact, they crow to their hearts content, at any time of the day or night.
I started running early as a way to get out of the funk I’ve been in. Working from 7:45 to 5:00 everyday, plus the added strain of working 45 seconds from home, was taking its toll. The morning run forced me to wake up early, get some exercise, clear my head, and go beyond the block of work and home. It has been glorious.
As I began today, I resolved to go further than my normal 4mile route. Saturdays are always good long run days, so I woke up earlier to get a jump start and make sure I wasn’t out when the sun was up. At 4:50 I kicked off and headed down through the quiet streets of PG. As I approached the central park, I was startled to hear a commotion. To my surprise, I found a number of children playing on the swing set. An hour before sunrise is a quite peculiar time for fun and games, but if your parents are in town to sell produce in the market, and the bus leaves the village at 2am, you have a lot of free time on your hands.
Apart from the small group of players, town is normally quite still at this time. Not entirely, though. There’s a small group of early morners who are out and about, mostly exercising in some capacity. Initially they must have been confused to see a heavily bearded white guy out that early, but we’ve developed a nice bond. We see each other every morning, a nod or “mahning” as hello.
The first two miles of the route pass by the sea. It is often as still as the town, only a few ripples betraying the dark mirror of its surface. A few pelicans or a solitary fisherman are the only intruders this early in the day that scarcely has begun.
Today I was going further than the normal route. As I passed my turnoff point, I saw a man standing up ahead of me, waiting for the 5am bus. He started chanting “uno, duos, uno, duos,” as I ran toward him, then shouted “good morning” as I got near. He was carrying a large rifle over his shoulder and looked like he was going out to the jungle to do some early morning hunting. Only in Belize can men with rifles on the side of the road not elicit consternation.
The run continued up the road, with my mind straying far beyond the trees bordering the strip of asphalt. After about five miles, there’s a turn off back to town, a road known as the dirt highway. It cuts through the jungle, over rivers, past lush hills, by homes of a number of people.
Even this early, the sounds of stirring could be heard. People were filling buckets with water, stoking fires, and even the sewing machine purred away in one home.
By the time I returned to the house of ours, I had traveled almost ten miles. My knees were a bit creaky and ankles sore, but it was worth it. The sun was still low in the sky. I chased it up and already had made my run around the planet I’ve grown familiar with here.
And thus the run ended, with me stretching, looking out on the Caribbean, welcoming the day of promise and infinite possibility. And hopefully a nap. I was up darn early.
3 years ago