Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feeling the Day

When I let the words come out, they sounded like a bad New Year’s resolution. The kind that you might stick with once, maybe twice, and then bail on. You know, how suddenly the gym is overcrowded and filled with pretenders and the good intentioned.
It sounded like that. I believe it went something like, “I’m going to start getting up 30 minutes earlier to get an easy three miler in.”

“At 6am it’s not really a training run,” Brother Colm said. “I call it ‘feeling the day’, and it’s not compulsory, and not supervised. And yet every one of them will do it.”

Brother Colm is a Kenyan Athletic coach who has hosted the St. Patrick’s Training Camp every year since 1989. He lives in the distance running mecca of Iten, and he’s speaking to Ian O’Riordan, an Irish journalist, known as a Mzungu, or white man to the locals, who spent three weeks living and training at altitude at an Iten running camp.

The run Colm references is roughly three miles and hardly factors into each athlete’s mileage, if they give it a second thought at all. It seems as much a part of their morning routine as brushing their teeth. And, as the article goes on to say, Colm and O’Riordan are on their way to the first true workout of the day, a hill session at 10:00 a.m.

O’Riordan’s entire account of the camp is a great read, but the idea of “feeling the day” immediately jumped out at me when I read this article after it popped up in an e-mail from my dad. It is in fact the culprit for my cheesy sounding resolution.

Prior to reading it, I’d made adding mileage to my weekly totals a 2012 priority once I can hit the roads in earnest again. I’ve dabbled in morning runs before, mostly to squeeze a workout in because of afternoon/evening plans or to beat the summer Virginia humidity. But I’ve never considered making them a staple of my workouts, preferring instead to capture 30 precious minutes of sleep.

At first, I thought about those three miles and considered how much value they might actually add. But when you stack three miles up over four to five days of running, that’s an extra 12-15 miles per week. In addition to adding a sixth day of running (I’ve only ever run five days a week), it seemed like the next logical step. Plus, I’ve seen my body respond pretty favorably to shake out and recovery runs, which this would no doubt become.

With my ankle on the mend, I thought I could not only get in some extra work on it, but also begin priming my body to be up at 6:00 when I can run again.

So, yesterday morning, bundled up and with dog leash in hand, I took off into our dark and still neighborhood before the sun had begun to lighten the sky and the coffee percolated in lit kitchens. I set off to “feel the day” and shake the grogginess from my head and my limbs before the day’s work began. My dog Mattie had a skip in her step when she realized we were continuing on past our normal loop, then scampered ahead of me when we set off down the path normally reserved for long-after-work-walks. I had my iPod tuned in to the local morning show that gets me to work in the morning. When we returned to the house, it was no later than normal had I bagged that extra 30 minutes of sleep, and instead of moving from room to room half awake, my thoughts were clear and I felt oddly alert for that time of the day.

When I take these on later in the month (fingers crossed), I’ll do so without a watch, not really caring what the time or the pace is, but rather to feel my body coming alive with the day rather than forcing it to.

After all, as one of the Kenyas points out, “The Mzungus, they say, have the watches; the Kenyans have the time.”

Get out and see what the day feels like before the real work begins.

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