Running the Stanford Dish Trail at night.


Img courtesy – waqasm (Flickr)

I was chatting to KZ a couple of days back and he mentioned running the dish at night. I was intrigued.

KZ: i run from rains to medical center for my short days, medium days are around the campus and long days i run around the dish (at night )

ME: night? isnt it closed at night?

ME: curious.. how do you do the dish at night?

KZ: haha umm apparently there are coyotes and mountain lions so i never run alone

ME: but its closed.. the gates are locked.. so how do you get in

ME: it closes around ~45 mins around sunset

KZ: short fences

ME: I’m joining you next time..

KZ: haha sure but first let’s run around the campus to determine who’s a faster runner

KZ: in case we run into any coyotes.

ME: 🙂

KZ: you know the law i’m referring to, right?

ME: to outrun the slow guy..

KZ: haha

KZ: that’s the one!

So at 9pm today, five daring runners met at the intersection of Stanford ave and Bowdoin St. Before I left the lab, I checked the weather and it showed 9 degrees Celcius. I called DK and asked him if he was serious about running while I could barely walk in the fucking cold. He was like, Ah, c’mon boss, just throw on a hoodie. You’ll be fine. I thought I should remind him that he was from Iowa and I was from one of the hottest places in India. Not to mention I had spent sixteen years in a frigging desert.

When I met them, I realized that everyone had headlamps. I just took off my bike light and decided to carry it in my hand. We started running and I quickly realized that I was quite safe as one of the guys was slower than me. I could stop worrying about being eaten by mountain lions and coyotes.

Usually I just run in shorts and a tee, but tonight I was wearing a bunch of layers and track pants. Soon the pants started chafing my skin. (When I came back, my nipples were sore and the inside of my thighs were bloody red). Strangely, cold air seemed more dense to me and I had trouble breathing. I would gasp. And when I would breathe out,  the warm air  would fog up my glasses. While I struggled to see and breathe, my silly mind wondered if the viscosity of air decreased or increased with temperature. And how weird it was that when I burped, I could feel the taste of the Braised Oxtail I had had for dinner earlier. Sigh.

stanford dish google earth

As we reached the Dish entrance, we switched off our lights and swiftly jumped over the fence. We chose the counter clockwise route and had barely gone half a mile before the slowest guy complained of cramps. We stopped and decided that DK would take him back home. I was tempted to go with them but then I reached down and realized that I still had balls (even though they were frozen and felt like steel). So, we bade good bye to DK and C and started our climb upwards.

ZK and DM flanked me on the right and left and we huffed and puffed our way up slowly. We had switched on our lights by now and were on the watch out for any movement in the bushes.

What seemed like an hour later, we reached the first plateau of the trail and I heaved a sigh of relief. My body had warmed up nicely by now and we were chatting about our week and exchanging stories. Thats one of the best parts I like about Stanford. Always interesting people to hang out with. No wonder I can’t seem to get any work done. Dammit.

We could see the silhouette of the dish by now. As we came close to it, we saw a sign and we stopped to read it. ZK and DM started talking in German and were laughing. I was nervously looking around for any movement in the bushes. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that I was the slowest runner and they were quite happy with my decision to stay. F**k.

wildlife advisory stanford dish trail

Img credit - Bob Siegel


We started running again. The sky was quite clear and we could see the San Francisco Bay on our right. By now, we were done with most of the climbing part and we were on the downhill part. Occasionally we would hear some movement in the bushes and we would run a little bit faster throwing a quick glance over our shoulder for any unwanted followers. By now, we could see the fence and this time we just used the gate to let ourselves out. We smiled at each other in the dark and after a round of high fives and fist bumps, we each slipped away into the darkness back to our homes.

I’m hooked. I won’t be surprised if this becomes a weekly routine. For some reason, this quote by Maurice Greene, comes to mind.

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must move faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning a lion wakes up and it knows it must move faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be moving.

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