Running

The Biggest Opponent to the Senate’s Bill To Make Daylight Saving Time Permanent? Morning Runners

Getty Images/Ruben Earth
We all lost an hour of sleep over the weekend, but anyone who loves to get in an early morning run just got a double-whammy of time-change pain: On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which would make daylight saving time (DST) permanent across the United States starting in November 2023. For the 77 percent of runners who prefer to log their miles first thing in the a.m., that would literally leave them in the dark most of the year.

Unsurprisingly, the runner reaction to making daylight saving time permanent has been less than enthusiastic.

The bill still needs to pass in the House and be signed by President Biden for it to become law. And it’s not yet known when the House might take it up, but it has bipartisan support, including both Republican and Democratic cosponsors.

“I know I’m looking at it selfishly as someone who likes to work out in the morning, but I was surprised at how much it seems like I’m in the minority,” says Brad Culp, a columnist for Triathlete who typically starts running by 5:30 or 6 a.m. “The fact that 100 out of 100 senators voted for this is pretty telling. That’s not something you hear about every day!”

There’s likely so much support for the bill in Congress because “springing forward” and “falling back” is widely despised: a reported seven out of 10 Americans dislike flip-flopping between times.

Changing the clocks has serious health consequences, including an increase in fatal traffic accidents (by up to 30 percent!), a rise in workplace injuries, and a greater incidence of heart attacks. The shift makes it harder for us to fall asleep and wake up on schedule, and we end up sleeping 40 minutes less on average—an amount of sleep deprivation that carries real safety risks. Experts say it takes about a week to fully adjust.

But early risers are asking, Why not make standard time permanent instead?

“If we were always in daylight saving, I’d feel like a vampire most of the day!” says Amie Dworecki, a running coach and dedicated morning runner. Located on the very westernmost part of the Eastern Time Zone in South Bend, Indiana, she says that in the dead of winter, the sun doesn’t rise until 8:15 a.m.—which would be pushed back until 9:15 a.m. under this bill.

"I'd feel like a vampire most of the day!" —Amie Dworecki

Also advocating for year-round standard time is the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which says it’s better aligned with our natural circadian rhythms. The organization argues that the consistently delayed darkness of DST could have detrimental health risks due to chronic “social jet lag,” which has been associated with everything from an increased risk of obesity and depression to metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Yikes.

Of course, it’s not just morning runners or walkers who would be negatively affected by the time change. Kids would be more likely to have to wait for the school bus in the dark. Dog owners would have to head out before sunrise in the winter. Morning commuters would have less light to help wake them up.

But the runner reaction to making daylight saving time permanent has included some of the most vocal opposition (at least on social media). While some people do prefer working out in the dark to better tune in to their bodies, runners logging their miles outdoors have to consider safety issues: cars not seeing them, and obstacles or ice patches that go hidden until it's too late.

Dworecki, who specializes in working with women, adds that “running in the dark is a different experience for women,” noting that they also have to take into account harassment and other threatening encounters. Yet they might be even more drawn to those early morning miles: Since the majority of childcare responsibilities fall on moms, many start running even earlier than their male counterparts to fit it in before the kids get up.

“If this bill passes, that means it’s going to be even darker—and for longer,” says Dworecki.

Talk to enough morning runners and you'll quickly learn that most are exceptionally enthusiastic about starting their days on the road. It'd be a hard sell to convince them to switch to an evening routine. (Though it remains to be seen what might happen if the mood-boosting benefits of sunlight are taken out of the equation.)

“It just gets my head in the right place,” says Uma Ellur Staehler, a long-distance runner in Boston who works in biotech, and begins every single day with a run. “If I don’t, the day gets the better of me and I never fit in my workout. I also have a hard time sleeping when I exercise too late.”

Culp adds that there’s a special magic to morning workouts: “I love starting in the dark—it’s nice to get out before the sun’s up and run as the sun rises. But it would be really weird finishing at 7:45…and it’s still dark.”

One group that has eagerly cheered on this bill? Evening runners. If it does get signed into law, the early birds who don’t want to switch up their schedules might have to resort to running indoors on the treadmill, or investing in safety gear like reflective clothing and headlamps—things that dedicated after-work runners might be able to give them a tip or two about.

“You can come up with arguments for both sides,” says Staehler. “But when the day is short, I don’t think anyone wins. Really, I'd just want to have more sunlight all the time.”

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Tags: Running

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