A late night run on the Provo River Trail


Me, after the run, getting a shot of the brighter section of the Provo River Trail


Last night I posted to Facebook, inviting anyone to go on a 4-5 mile run with me. No one took up the offer, so I thought I wouldn’t go. Instead I had a healthy (read: big) serving of Dryer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and started to watch Conan. And then I started to dress for a run. Dang it.

I checked Facebook one more time, just in case there was a last minute offer, but there was none. I headed out the door and started an unusually fast for my first mile. I’ll be honest. I was nervous. Apparently, when I’m scared or nervous, I run faster. Good to know.

Once I got down to the path entrance, I considered just taking the road the runs alongside the Provo River Trail. Safer. More light. Shorter distance. Not as scary. Because of this last detail, I chose to take the scary route. Not sure why I do this. With my newfound UDAP pepper spray, I started off into the pitch black, my headlight guiding me.

This is a good time to mention that I really like this headlamp. It sits close to my head, doesn’t distract me, and lights up the road enough. I could see investing in something brighter, though. I’d like something that blinds anything in front of me. Really.

I’ve always had a very defensive posture. Ever since I was a kid. Maybe it was from the time that Chad, when I was in grade school, punched me in the stomach, because I kept singing Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra”, even after he commanded me to stop. Maybe it’s because I got into that one weird fight, on a run, in Springville, about 7 years ago. Either way, while I’m never looking for a fight on a run, I’m always considering my Next Move. The point being, if I had a nice, bright, blinding light, I’d have a little bit of advantage while my attacker couldn’t see. Maybe I’d spray him. Maybe I’d start kicking and punching for all my worth. But I think we both know I’d run like hell, à la Pink Floyd.

Mile 1: 0:8:25

Regardless. Or irregardless, for those of you who don’t know better, I started down this dark trail. Immediately I heard familiar footsteps behind me. Because I’ve already panicked over this sound, I knew that this was the sound of my own footsteps, echoing between the river bank and the trees on my north. Just in case, I risked a quick glance behind me. Just the chasing darkness.

The second mile wasn’t so much that I was running fast. It’s that I was running fast for my visibility. Every once in a while, a foot would brush into a lump or patch in the trail’s asphalt and I’d lose my balance. I very quickly learned to take some higher steps. So for being out of my gait and running in the darkness, I’m clipping off 0:8:00’s…I’m obviously trying to get off of this path. ASAP. As fast as I can without tripping and spilling into whatever enemy awaits. Bears? (Just came back from Yellowstone, so bears are on my mind.) A bad guy? Skunk? Russian Mafia? No idea. But I sense the danger, all around me.


At the Lakeshore trailhead. I run this trail almost 90% of the time. Great trail.

I spend a lot of time on my second mile, sweeping my headlamp from the left to the right-hand side of the trail. There are so many trees and I don’t need to be taken by surprise. Every once in a while I spin my head around to see who’s following me. Can’t see anyone. They must be very stealth and good at self-concealment.

Mile two: 0:7:56

Passing the two mile mark, I realize that the only choice I have is to continue on toward Utah Lake. Otherwise, I’ll find myself running back the way I came, dealing with the consequences of whatever I’ve stirred up on the first half of a dangerous out and back. So I reach the end of the trail (I’m alive!) and start running on the parallel road that takes some of the distance off of the first half. I know I’m close to 2.5 miles, here, so if I run home, I’ll likely get 4.5 out of this run. If I were more of a man, I would have eeked out a clean 5 by staying on the trail. And fighting a ninja, probably. Not worth it.

Mile 3: 0:7:57


Me, with my sweet headlamp in action. This is not a lightening strike, which was flashing in the distance, under ominous clouds.

I only saw two people on this stretch of lonely, freakishly dark stretch of road. The first was a car that drove way too slowly past me, then turned around and drove slowly past me again. I clutched my critter spray and just DARED someone to step out and mess with me (the best defense is a good offense?), but they continued on.

The next person I saw was on a motorcycle or scooter. It sounded like a scooter, but the rider was high up enough, that I couldn’t tell. I gave a friendly wave (hint: if someone doesn’t wave back, they are the enemy). There was no return wave. I am immediately suspicious.

Mile 4:  0:11:26

My shin started hurting, here, so I started walking, just in case I was going to aggravate something that might affect my upcoming long run on Saturday.

At night, every trail, every road is approximately 20% longer than it is in the day. So I ran for what seemed like a few weeks. When I reached the trail entry, I knew I was safe. We’re in my territory, now. During the day, I claim the entire trail and dare anyone to challenge. Except for the faster runners. They get a pass (ha!)

From here, I trotted home, victorious; alive. I walked into my house, dried off with a towel, stretched, showered, fixed a nice (that’s two, now, for those of you keeping score) glass of Dryer’s Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and sat down to finish Conan.

I love these night-time runs. Any of you who read this (there is one of you) are welcome to join me.

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3 Responses to A late night run on the Provo River Trail

  1. Kaye says:

    Love it!

  2. Guy Randle says:

    I’ve been doing some pre-dawn runs along the trail with my headlamp. I always get freaked out when I come out of the tunnel by the new bridge because there are multiple shadows following me because of the several lights in the tunnel. Gets me every time. It’s interesting to note how subliminally aware we are of our surroundings.
    See you out there

    • Nathan Nelson says:

      Right on, Guy. I love your way of just getting out there and doing what you want, even if it’s not totally conventional. I know what you mean. I am on High Alert when I run at night, or early morning. There have been several times when an unexpected cracking of a branch has subconsciously turned my hands into fists. I get a little freaked out, sometimes. 🙂

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