A View from the Top - Red Sky at Morning

Gordon Cherr, December 27, 2020

Sitting on the front porch, lacing up my Altras in the dim but slowly brightening pre sunrise, I chanced to look east. The heavy and racing clouds were riding the morning wind, rainstorms and perhaps tornadoes are in the day’s forecast. Shoes laced, I headed down the driveway with no particular run in mind, and then it struck me, that is, how absolutely red the eastern sky was as the rising sun underlit the racing clouds. My mind began to spin.

The old, long since deceased runner and philosopher, Dr. George Sheehan, hypothecated that when he ran his mind spun out of control. Or maybe he ran because it allowed his mind to spin out of control. In an instant mine was somewhere else. Fortunately for most runners, our bodies run just fine on autopilot, no conscious mind needed, thank you. So, off we went, my body first, with my mind trailing somewhere, behind..


Many years ago, almost more years than I can count, before I became an attorney and later a Magistrate, I was an oceanographer. Not any old oceanographer either. I was a sea going oceanographer.

I didn’t like to sit behind a desk and later a computer all day and night or in a laboratory or classroom. I preferred being where the action was, or where I thought that it was. On large and small boats and research vessels at sea, collecting data, riding the beautiful and heavy weather, always a little afraid. Maybe that’s why I later became a litigating/trial attorney. It was where the action was, or so I thought. It was always a little bit scary, on the edge, there often seemed to be a lot at stake. There is a lot at stake, everything, when you are on a ship or boat outside of sight of land, far from home. That’s just the way it is.

Maybe that is why some people are runners too, who, from time to time, let it all hang out and tempt the fates in races large and small. Or even in daily workouts. And we like those meandering woodland trails and lanes where you cannot see around the next turn. You gotta be ready but being on the edge can be a pretty heady experience too.

At sea, in boats and ships great and small, far out of sight of land and loved ones, in such darkness that it pierces your entire being, I saw things and felt things that I could not describe, and much that I did not understand. It wasn’t all wonderment though, I mean I did my share of “riding the rail”, i.e., seasick. If you are lucky you do learn to read the winds and the waves and feel the sometimes subtle shifts in the weather, the falling barometric pressure, you study the weather, what was coming, what was passing through, always with that little apprehension.

Running is the same for me. In daytime or at night and all times in between, all seasons, all weather. I have seen and heard things that I did not understand or maybe I misinterpreted, could not explain, frightened me, thrilled me (ever get chased by a bear? Frightening and thrilling at the same time, but mostly the former as opposed to the latter), but nothing has ever become mundane. Yes, I have run in the middle of hurricanes and tropical storms too. Or the searing midday sun. Or at midnight for no reason whatsoever. I am not alone. You know who you are.

I don’t feel apprehension this morning though. The wind is whipping from time to time, autumn leaves are falling like a rainbow of winter snow. Reds, yellows, purples, greens. Tree branches are heaving to and fro, pine cones rain down with each gust. I guess that I have reached that point in running and in life, where I am not feeling particularly hurried. But I have never more appreciated the running life and the ability to be out on the roads and trails every day should the spirit continue to move me. Which it does. Literally every day.

When you are at sea for days and weeks at a time, you learn to study the face of the Captain too. That tells you a lot. Maybe this makes no sense now, but if you have ever ridden in 30-40′ swells in a small research vessel, on the edge of an oncoming hurricane as your little boat/ship/safe haven races all out to reach a safe harbor, it does. It really does.

Runners are the captains of their own ships too. And are the crew too. And there always is some inherent danger in running any given day. And don’t you forget it. But be as responsible or as irresponsible as you please. It is your life you know. Throw caution to the wind from time to time if you choose. Well, up to a point that is. As long as we don’t endanger others.

I was reminded this morning of all of those wonderful and likewise scary times at sea and on land. The weather is changing, a strong front is coming through, the wind is passing through in great gusts, and as I stepped outside to breathe the air and feel and hear the wind, the early morning sky was a fiery red. Odd how a sound or aroma or a simple word can bring it all back. Or even a color.

It is no joke, it is true, not silly legend:

“Red sky ay night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.”

Red sky at morning, runners take warning too. This runner does anyhow. The wind whistles through the tall old pines and oaks, branches sway ever so gracefully. The blizzard of autumn leaves continues. I am glad to have both feet on solid land. But I do miss the crusty old salts we rode with on the ships and boats, the lousy food, the inexplicable moving phosphorescence in the deep water, the sounds that we could not explain, the lone gracefully sailing albatross so far from home, and a darkness so rich and solid that it could not be broken by a sledge hammer. And I so appreciate that the burning red sky this morning brought all of that back, if just for an instant. I never understood, for me, the deep connections between sailing the deep oceans and running the roads and trails.

So now, off to follow those roads and trails and tides and currents again, to see where they might lead. I’ll see you out there.



A View From the Top – Nicole

A rainy day. A tropical storm approaches. The golf course is deserted. Golf courses make for the best running during or after the biggest storms and heaviest weather, or at any time at all when golfers are not around. Let's just let that last one lie/lay (?) right...

A View from the Top – Searching the Heart

This man killed my friend. He chose to drive on Springhill Road in this county one fine evening at nearly 90 mph if not faster, for reasons he will not share, crossed the centerline in an out of control skid, and struck Paul who was standing on the opposite shoulder...

Running from Pain

The gravel on the Greenways Trail crunches underfoot in the dim light of this morning. Usually I don't mind that. But today the sound is uncomfortable and distressing, not its usual steady reassurance of life and the progression of miles. Miles to where? I don't know....

A VIEW FROM THE TOP – September 6, 2020

Heading out for the early morning run when I was struck by the little breeze bending through the trees. It happens every year. If we pay attention, we runners are so attuned to the seasons, their length and intensities, the subtle changes in wind direction that herald...

View from the top – Possibilities 02-2020

Possibilities. The run this morning was a wet one. Not raining, not dry, but cool and damp and humid, and while not so cold, we could see our steamy breath in the dim shine of our headlamps. Sounds are muffled on mornings like this as we ghost along on silent...

A View from the Top It’s Raining 2019

A View From the TopIt's RainingGordon Cherr, October 29, 2019It's raining. I love to run in the rain. Just to slog along, everything, every drop, feels electric on your skin. In the meanwhile, if this isn't the most wonderful music ever written, then I...

A view from the top – By Gordon Cherr

 By Gordon Cherr Nicole, November 10, 2022 Searching the Heart, December 16, 2021 Running Away From Pain, April 22, 2021 Red Sky at Morning, December 27, 2020 Insignificance, September 6, 2020 Possibilities, February 4, 2020 It's Raining, October 29, 2019 Some...

Some Mornings

A View from the Top Some Mornings   Gordon Cherr,  SOME MORNINGS... Some mornings are beyond description. We started our run from the Thornton Road parking area on the Greenways and headed towards Fleishmann Road. There isn't much ground fog here, but...

Graveyard Running

A View from the Top Graveyard Running   Gordon Cherr,    "Gary and I walked up to the graveyard, talked shop, figured out the answers to our friends' troubled lives and saw the wagon axle gravestone. Gary found it. He had no idea. I was stunned...

Pine Run Redux

A VIEW FROM THE TOP Pine Run Redux   Gordon Cherr,    The Pine Run 2018 will be here soon. One of the great jewels in the crown of special GWTC races. What follows is the true story of how the Pine Run returned from the dead after being summarily...