The Morning Run

Matt Orlando
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Matt Orlando

Matt is a 30 something year old runner/father/husband from New Jersey. Along with writing for TheRunnerDad.com, he occasionally writes articles for other blogs and websites. He is an IT guy by day, with a passion for running, traveling, and photography.
Matt Orlando
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sunrise

As we quickly approach the dark, cold, and overall depressing winter months, I am faced with a dilemma: how do I fit running into my schedule now that I cannot bring my son in his jogging stroller? I only get a limited amount of time to spend with my son each day, since I work during the day and he heads to bed before 8. Running by myself in the afternoon also eats into the time I get to spend with my wife. Lunch running is out of the question, since there is are no showers available to me and I am not a fan of body wipes. I could go running after he goes to bed, but by that time at night I am wiped out. There is only one choice left, one which I always considered but dreaded: the morning run.

5:00 a.m. comes early; certainly much earlier than I am used to waking up each morning. It is not an hour I am used to seeing. On the occasional race day morning or vacation travel day I may crawl my way out from under the sheets at this hour, but by and large I try to stay south of the 6:00 a.m. mark. Yes, there are many nights where I am awakened at odd hours by my screaming son, but on those nights I usually am able to head right back to sleep. I do not do early.

In my strongest moment of the day, I told my wife that I would be attempting a 5 am run. I told her that I would need her to push me, no matter how I argued or what tricks I tried to employ. Things looked good until around 9 at night, when I was chilly and tired and the thought of getting up early turned me into a spoiled, temper-tantrum filled child. I begged, I pleaded, I even played dirty, trying to throw her off her resolve. Bless her heart, she stood strong and made me lay out my running clothes and set the alarm. I will not lie: I went to bed a little angry.

Twice during the night I had stress dreams about running. In one I woke to run, but it took me so long to get ready that I missed out and ended up being late for work. In the other all my running clothes were wet and covered with mold. I awoke at 4:30, convinced that the alarm did not go off. It was not a smooth night of sleeping.

The alarm woke me at 5. Surprisingly, I awoke ready to go. I was still a bit grumpy, but that is to be expected when one is forced into giving up a part of something they love so dearly (sleep). I downed a glass of water, gave my wife a kiss (to let her know I was not mad at her anymore), laced up and headed out the door.

It was like stepping into a whole new world. What struck me first was the absolute stillness of the night. No cars driving by, no work being done at the local auto repair shop, no kids playing basketball in the street. Surrounded by silence, I looked up and saw an amazingly beautiful starry sky. Orion looked down from me on high, giving me a nod and letting me know that he and I were in this together. As my Garmin found its signal, I headed down the road into the darkness.

I stayed to the middle of the roads, using my LED flashlight where street lights did not reach. Intersections that usually required that awkward running pause were passed without issue. I felt like an adventurer as I sped street light to street light, deeper into the dark unknown. Shortly before reaching my turning point, I saw a shadow cross the road ahead of me. I may be adventurous, but I also have been chased by enough animals to know when it is time for detour. I headed down a side street deeper into the night.

As I approached the ocean, I saw my first runner ambling in the distance. Crazy, it seems, is something other runners are infected with as well. Thankfully they were running in the opposite direction so I had the entire boardwalk to myself. Each step seemed to echo through the night as I raced along the shoreline. Along the horizon the first light of the morning was starting to appear. I reached the end of the boardwalk and turned back into the darkness of the neighborhood. One more runner greeted me in the darkness, and then I was alone again.

I finished my run exactly how I had planned, at just over 30 minutes. I covered 3.44 miles. I had no distance goal in mind, no pace in mind. I simply wanted to overcome the giant that was the morning run. I awoke. I ran. I conquered. I stood in triumph outside my darkened home, sad that the feeling of the run and the darkness of the night was fading, but elated to have overcome my obstacle. I had done it. I had taken my first, and biggest, step towards becoming a morning runner.

Only time will tell if I stay the path, but that is my goal. It will allow me to continue doing what I love, while not taking away time from those whom I love. Each day will be a challenge, but in the end I know I will be better for it.

Do you run in the morning? If not, what is holding you back?

27 Comments

  1. P.J. Murphy

    Congrats on getting out there and getting your day started at 5AM! You’ll find that it gets much easier after a couple of weeks. There will probably be days when your internal monologue telling you to stay under the warm covers will sound convincing, but you’ll be glad you go your run in before the real craziness of the day starts! Get pasts the 2-3 week mark of doing it consistently and you’ll have a good, healthy habit on your hands!

    With a family and a full time job, I’ve found running in the morning really is the best, surest way to get your run in. My kids are in first and third grade, so night time is for dinner, homework, playing/reading to them and downtime with my wife. If I don’t consistently wake up early to run, the likelihood of me not running that day is relatively high – especially if I’m not training for anything.

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      As always, thanks for checking out the blog. It’s good to know that after 2-3 weeks it will feel normal. That being said, it looks like it will be a rough 2-3 weeks for me. I am just not programmed to get up that early…but I guess that is what this is all about, reprogramming myself. Part of me wishes I had tried this when it was warm out…dark + cold is tough to fight against. If it works though, it will definitely be worth it.

      Reply
  2. Steve Miller

    I am also a morning runner and PJ nailed it on the head – 2-3 weeks and it will become old hat. I have been a morning runner for over 2 years now. My alarm is set for 4:44 and I try to get out there at least 2-3 days per week and then save Saturday mornings for my longer run. Family time must be a priority – thus the early monring run. I found this on twitter the other day and it captures perfectly the reason i run so early.
    “I love running in the dark. It’s the time of the day that isn’t quite yesterday and it is not quite today’. It is my in-between space, where the problems of yesterday don’t matter anymore and the possibilities of today are yet to rise.”

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      Wow, I really like that quote. I’ll have to keep that in mind when I need some inspiration to get out of bed!

      Reply
      1. P.J. Murphy

        yep…that is a great quote. Have to remember that one!

        Reply
  3. Paul Starling

    I am not one of those runners that has a problem getting out of bed and getting in a morning run. However, I have to be a work around 6:30 to drive a bus. So during the school year, I run in the afternoon after I get off the bus around 4:30. Year round on the weekends and during the summer when school is out I will still quite often rise at 5 am to get in my runs, especially in the summer to beat the heat.

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      Yeah, I can see this being a real benefit in the summer when days often reach above 90…sometimes over 100. It’s just rough when right now and through the winter the mornings will be below 30…and in some cases the teens!

      Reply
      1. Paul Starling

        My running buddy, Nathan Maxwell’s, favorite words this time of year are BRRR!!!!!! I have to listen to it every time we go out for a run. He was not a morning runner either. But after dragging him out over and over, he doesn’t fight it or complain as much. It will get better for you as well. You may not like it, but it will get easier over time.

        Reply
        1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

          I hope it not only gets easier, but that I love it. One day at time though.

          Reply
  4. Jesica @rUnladylike

    Running and working out in the morning literally adds a 25th hour to the day. I find that I feel SO powerful and fulfilled when I work out in the morning before work. However, I am so bad about getting myself out of bed. I do the same thing with my husband that you said to your wife … do NOT under any circumstances let me stay in bed. And then I do. Now that tri season has ended, I give myself the out that I can do it after work, but then the day drains me and I don’t enjoy my miles as much as I would if they were my first priority at the beginning of the day. Congrats on getting out there and keep up the great (morning) work!

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      Thanks Jesica. And you are right, I am looking for that 25th hour. I was hoping that I would feel like you said…powerful and fulfilled…but I can’t say that that feeling lasted more than half of the commute the work. I’m hoping as I get more and more accustomed to running in the AM that I will feel that way longer and more often.

      Reply
  5. David Fisher

    I have the same problems fitting my running in around work and family. For now im going to stick to running at night. Not sure i could bring myself to be up at 5, especially now its getting colder. I do like the idea of there being nobody around.

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      I hear you David. It was a very tough decision to make, but I’m two days in and so far so good. I realize that it’s going to be pretty much just as cold at 5 in the morning as it would be if I were running at night, but at least now I get it done and have the rest of my free time during the day to spend with my family or get other things done. And honestly, I’m starting to think that the 7 hours of sleep I’m getting now is better than the 8 I was.

      Reply
      1. David Fisher

        I’ll follow your progress, maybe you will inspire me to get up and out early. It does make sense.

        Reply
        1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

          I’m hoping if that I can make it through the bitter cold this morning, I can make keep this going. Stay tuned!

          Reply
  6. Filer Insurance

    Sleep. Sleep is what’s holding me back from running in the morning. Also cold I don’t like running in the cold. My lungs fight me every second when I’m running in the cold. Congrats to you being able to do so though.

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      So far so good. Honestly, I wake up more alert at 5 than I did at 6…probably because I’m waking up to do something I love!

      Reply
  7. Katie

    Way to go! I’ve always been a 5am runner until the last couple months; I’m not sure if it’s the cold weather or that it’s staying darker longer but my 5am motivation has faded away and I want it back!! Your post is what’s going to motivate me to drag myself out of bed tomorrow and just “get up and go”. Hope you keep up the habit!

    Reply
    1. The Runner Dad (Post author)

      Good luck in getting back to it! So far so good, though I was sick last night so I decided to skip my morning run today. Hope to be back to it tomorrow. But you are correct, the cold and dark definitely work against you…which is why starting something like this at this time of year makes it even tougher!

      Reply
  8. Dashing Dad

    I loved the morning run! I haven’t done it in a while since I was working late (I am a stay at home dad, and I can only work once the kids are in bed). There were a few runners out and about, and the crisp clear air, the stars, etc. I love it when I can watch the sunrise on my run back home. Just found the blog. Love it!

    Reply
    1. Matt Orlando (Post author)

      Thanks for checking it out! And yes, it is pretty awesome running under the stars.

      Reply
  9. karen

    Great job getting up and out early! I do that in the summer because I can’t take sun or heat. Winter I tend to run right after work.

    Reply
    1. Matt Orlando (Post author)

      Don’t congratulate me too much. After it started getting much colder (and I joined the gym) I abandoned my quest. Perhaps once it gets warm again?

      Reply
  10. Tobe

    Love my morning runs. Warm months out the door by 7. Colder months I wait until 8 and bundle up.
    My off days feel strange because I did not get my run.

    Reply
    1. Matt Orlando (Post author)

      I wish I could wait until 7 or 8…then I would probably run morning all the time. I have to get out the door by a few minutes after 5 for it to be feasible.

      Reply
  11. Angela

    I do run in the mornings because I live in southeast Texas the rest of the day is going to be hot. But I’m an early riser anyway so even when it’s not hot, I’m still up running. When I run in the morning, I don’t worry about it. Running is something I do for fun and relaxation but if I put my run off until later in the day, it is harder for me to get started. I run like at 4am because that is what I’m use to doing. Pulling me out in the afternoon would be a serious struggle.

    Reply
    1. Matt Orlando (Post author)

      4 a.m….good on you. So far the earliest I’ve gotten up is 4:45. I’ve got a long way to go to catch up with you!

      Reply

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