On this wacky Advanced Marathon training journey, I’ve come to love my flashing lights, my headlamp and my gear all decked out with reflective stripes. I never thought I’d be much of a dark time runner, nor did I ever imagine a need for any of those flashy gadgets. It only took me a week of AMT to realize I needed to actually see where I was going on those crazy early morning runs.
So I bought the 80 lumens headlamp and the strobe light. I made sure that all my jackets and tights had sewn-on silver pops of color that served the dual purpose of making sure I’m visible to drivers.
Of course, being visible to drivers is an obvious advantage, and quite frankly, more runners and walkers need to consider how visible they are to others. But what I didn’t expect is how gleeful I get when I catch another runner in the beam of my light.
It can look like a group of silver streaks moving toward me in a spacey kind of cadence. The headlamp illuminates the reflective features and makes runners look like a set of thoughtfully placed lights. The people are only visible as a secondary idea; what I see first is the light.
I find myself rotating my head, sweeping the beam of my light toward others in my group. I know I’m supposed to use it to identify potholes and speed bumps. But there’s something so silly and weird and fun about reflecting others.
Every time I catch a glimpse of silver in my headlamp’s light, I catch my breath. I can see someone I formerly could not see. I can recognize the shape of their limbs, the uniqueness of their gait. When I reflect someone, I can tell Paula from Allen. I can distinguish Coach from Mike, and Mike from Terri.
I can’t help thinking about this in terms of how I listen to and engage with people when I’m not running. When I mirror someone back to him or her, I get the clearest understanding of what they really said or meant to say. When I repeat back what was said, I make sure to comprehend intent. Catching someone in my headlamp light, those reflective patches allow me to distinguish a distinct physical form from everything else. In the same way when I repeat or reiterate something back, I am able to pick a specific from a general.
And isn’t that what we want? Isn’t the human compulsion to know and be known? To reflect and be reflectied?