Running Yoyogi Park at Midnight
All is dark and the autumn winds are playing the branches of trees. Amplifying the gusts. This park is electric at night. The clouds speed past overhead. In the direction of Shibuya, there is a neon glow projecting onto the low hanging clouds.
In the park, at this hour, all is still, save an elite eccentric few characters.
There are the shadowy couples parked on distant benches. Statuesque in their secrecy.
There is the dreadlocked dude playing an African drum by the fountain. All of his mates have abandoned him. He plays to the trees and crows now.
There is the music man by the small pond, imitating Dylan. Singing in Japanese something that might be The Times They Are A Changin’. He’s got the one-man-band style harmonica holder, and he lets loose a carnival sounding solo as I run by. My footsteps tapping out the percussion.
There are the three other runners I pass on each loop. Each in marathon training mode. Running like the T-1000 from Terminator 2. It’s dark, but it feels like they are still wearing their trendy running sunglasses. Marathoners are not creatures to break from routine. They are clad in their spandex and sprint with easy gaits, whipping up the leaves in their trail.
There is the crazy man on the boardwalk. Dancing a whirling dervish of a dance. It’s part tap dance, part performance art and 100% fantasy. He laughs to himself. He bows to an invisible audience. He is a dancing army of one. His toe taps and arm flairs move to the rhythm of all the park has to offer. His moves are inspired by the marathoners, Dylan, the crows, my plodding footsteps, the branches and the leaves. And by possibly things that even no one else can hear.
I run past it all. On loop. I check my time. I improve my stride. I think about life and work. I admire the bright yellow leaves swirling in the wind as I run through them. I need no music. Running in the wind sounds great.
I feel way faster at night. I imagine I am a running machine, or inside of some vehicle, cruising past nature, slaloming past the crazies. Kicking up leaves.
At other moments it feels like I am running in place. Caught up on an epic sized treadmill, going nowhere fast. Surrounded by the elements and characters. A record spinning, and I am the immovable, steady needle.
And then I decide the record is over and I head down the slope that leads to the back gate. I pass a giant, ghost like dog, walking his owner. I see the blur of headlights. Reality calls me back.
I leave the harmonica solo and boardwalk tap dances behind. They will disappear at first light. But I will see them the next time that I go on a midnight run. They are all hardwired into the fantasy of the Yoyogi Park after hours running scene.