Rising in the frigid, inky darkness of a winter morning, we who are training do not wait in vain for a feeling to begin running the miles. The feeling will come once we act, once we lace in, step past the airlock of the front door, set our faces defiantly into the miles. These mornings mirror the same black dawns of my youth when I first began to run, first learned these lessons in the laws of inertia. I was raised in an evangelical, doomsday cult. Thoughts were deeply influenced, acts of individualism were controlled and the end was always near. One had to create hope from nothing. Running before dawn was my first act of freedom, an act of defiant creation, a prayer to my own god, my own movement on the surface of the deep.

It felt like “all-or-nothing” every time I would sneak from my home in my early teens--stealing past the front door in sweatpants and sneakers and run under a canvas of still-blinking stars, the moon and Venus fading into the morning’s royal purple. We who train know how little feels more contrary to the body’s convenience than winter morning training in near dark. Yet, like the poet facing the empty page, we create from nothing; we turn this empty feeling into an overflow.

I still hold my breath in suspense before opening the front door, knowing the pain and elation that awaits with this act. We all strike the flint, creating sparks when we open the front door. We launch forward, fanning those sparks as the moon and Venus recede into the rising sun.


HOURS…Raised in the shadow of apocalypse, I measured my childhood hours by the drumbeat of the approaching End of the World. The potential of life beyond my 16th year was unfathomable, the present moment ever-draped in doom. I learned to peel myself away from this countdown of the present moment, drifting off in memory or dreams of another world. When my cult’s doomsday ceased to materialize, I buried my fear of time’s passage in a twelve-year wave of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, free for fleeting seasons until the bottle was empty, until dawn came. In the half-light, my body logged with substances, I’d arrive home to drink myself to sleep, watching as runners, yawning and stretching, departed for dawn miles.

Today, I’m ten weeks out from Boston, training through the wilds of winter in the “no man’s land” of the cycle. In these mysterious, quiet hours where progress feels murky, where packing it in makes as much sense as continuing forward, I watch myself dwelling on my lost years. I’m not alone in being haunted by thoughts of years past or to some “perfected” future self. I wonder how well I could have raced if I had not squandered my twenties. I wonder if I’ll ever have the “magical” training cycle...this time, or someday beyond. Yet, if allowed, these thoughts will measure time against me, dividing against my past and future.

This is the potential of running: at the chirp of the watch, we drop fully into the present moment. We immerse with each breath, time becoming the wave that carries us forward on its crest. This frigid February dawn traces 22 miles for me on the bridges and greenways of New York City, a route that simulates the rolling hills from Hopkinton to Boylston. Once, I could only dream of what awaits--hours of presence on the pinprick of the moment, a darkness still carried inside but now transformed, glinting diamond-like deep within. In these hours, I am this progression through the past, forward.

A Darkness Carried

In late 2019, over the course of several months, I followed and photographed runner and (then) beverage director of Mission Chinese and Wild Air Sam Anderson as he prepared for the 2020 Boston Marathon. Combined with words written by Sam before each workout, these images portray the personal and physical stuggles of training for a
marathon while facing the ghosts of the past.

Due to Covid-19 lockdowns the 2020 Boston Marathon never happened, and Sam’s training haulted, as did our project.
This project was comissioned by Tracksmith.

Words by Sam AndersonFor Tracksmith