I am not a morning person.  Anyone who has lived with me will tell you this. Without at least one cup of coffee (preferably two cups of a freshly ground Kenyan blend steeped in a French press) I am nearly inhuman and certainly asocial.

I am a runner.  I like to run.  I mean, I’m not serious about it anymore.  I’m not training for anything.  I talk about running a marathon in the few remaining years I have before needing a hip replacement, but at the moment its mostly talk.  For a long time though, when asked what accomplishment made me the most proud, I would say that I still held the record at my middle school for the 1600m.  I finally had to stop saying that recently when someone broke it.  But that record stood for almost fifteen years, and as far as I know, I’ve still got the 800m.

Being a runner and not being a morning person presents something of a conundrum.  People usually run in the morning when it’s coolest, especially in New York City in the summer.  Not really an option for me, doesn’t work so well. Instead, I run in the evenings through Riverside Park along the Hudson River, which since moving to Washington Heights a few years ago, quickly became one of my favorite things about this neighborhood.  However, Riverside Park is not necessarily a place you want to be when it gets dark.  So before leaving I always check online as to when exactly the sun will set that day, and plan accordingly. Last fall, with the days getting shorter and shorter, I didn’t get out the door quite as soon as I would have liked.  I had checked when the sun would set, and knew I didn’t have too much time.  But this just meant that I needed to run faster, right? I needed to outrun the sun.  Since that night, the phrase “outrun the sun” would stick in my head each time I raced the sunset back to my apartment.

(left, Riverside Park under the GW Bridge; right, Shawn Kemp)

Shawn Kemp is an actual runner, a serious runner.  I mean, she has a pair of Vibrams, those shoes that aren’t really shoes at all but sort of like plastic socks.  I hadn’t seen her in years (we met in high school at a summer camp for smart kids, more about that soon I promise) and recently we reconnected via Facebook.  She lives in Germany now, but in December she happened to be passing through New York on her way home for Christmas.  We had dinner together in Greenwich Village, and it was if no time had passed.  And yet it had.  We had changed, but somehow had become more ourselves, if that’s possible.  We outran the sun that night, as sometimes happens with old friends, and found ourselves back in a friendship we had almost forgotten.

That image became central to her portrait, the lyrics to her chorus, and eventually the title of the project itself.  We outrun the sun when we remember and yet at the same time forget, when time loses its hold on us and lets us run ahead.  The sun will catch up to us again, of course, and our relationships will evolve and change. But we’re reminded of how they began.

We outran the sun / Found ourselves where we’d begun

We are still the same / And yet somehow more ourselves

And the sun it slowly catches up with me.