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Burka on the run at bedtime

Bedtime Network's Lisa Mercurio sees a late night runner making an unusual fashion statement.  Was it a bedtime dress code or a different message altogether?

On my way out for the last walk with “doggy,” the other night, I did a double take.  The air was fresh and spring-like, not quite warm but also not cold.  Crossing Sutton Place, an ordinarily quiet, New York City dead end of an avenue, I saw a young woman barreling down the street.  Clad in a burka, without question, she was out for a midnight run.


As a marathoner, I generally think nothing of midnight runners.  Been there, done that myself.  Certainly plenty of folks have exceedingly busy work lives and therefore, are unable to get their exercise “in,” during the normal daylight hours.  But admittedly, this vision was a bit disarming.  First of all, it was quite late, even for the darkness runners.  It was bedtime.  Safe?  Safe neighborhood for sure, but who is really safe running in New York City in the dark?  Other than an occasional dog walker, the street was empty. I couldn’t help but imagine that she was enforcing her right to exercise in this country, a place that doesn’t care what time of the day or night one might choose to activate the sweat glands.


The young woman was wearing loose fitting pants and lacked any reflective gear.  While I might have mistaken her for someone in a hurry, she was wearing running shoes. No way to know if they were Nike, New Balance, Asics or Saucony, she was most definitely running purposefully.  So odd to see a burka as part of someone’s running attire.  By nature, it covers one’s mouth, making it that much harder to inhale or to run and breathe.  As I wondered what that must feel like, I found myself developing quite a fantasy about what was really going on here. 


And meantime, as I stood there with my dog by my side, she didn’t miss a beat.  Though her attire was not what I would call “running club - high style,” she had made the most of her allegiance to modesty but had also allowed the one piece of essential, conforming equipment…the right shoes.  As a woman more than a runner at this point, I said a private prayer.  “Let her be safe.  This is clearly someone that needs to be out there doing this.”  What a crazy time to be on the avenue!


But I also found myself admiring her strength and courage: both physical and theoretical.  After all, it’s hard to, “get it up,” to take a run at midnight.  I also couldn’t help but question and seriously doubt whether she had the spousal or familial support to be doing such a thing.  Fantasy again.  Was this an act of defiance, done in secrecy or, might I actually see her in a 10k one day soon.


Exercising too close to bedtime is known to have its inherent perils, releasing endorphins, making you too high to sleep and even re-setting your body clock in a way that might keep you up well beyond the stroke of midnight.  But tonight, the bedtime “ritual,” took on a whole new meaning.  It’s truly whatever works for you, I thought, whatever relaxes you and makes you happy.


I’m hoping I see her again.  Maybe I’ll even find out her name.   In the meantime, let freedom at bedtime or anytime, ring and ring and ring.