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.