Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Something didn't seem right. It had all the makings of a regular run, though. I flicked on my headlamp and followed the spotlight cast in front of me. Mattie turned her head as if sharing the same sentiment, "This isn't the usual routine," she seemed to say. And who doesn't appreciate a good routine more than a dog and a runner. Nevertheless, the ever adaptable creature, she quickened her steps and broke into a slow trot with me as we climbed out of the neighborhood together. 

A bright, white moon began to set into the trees and the chill started to disappear from my chest. The road leveled out and we fell into an easy rhythm that coaxed my legs awake. Once we hit the main road, the garbage truck convoy whooshed by and left a sour smelling wake for us to run through. That hammered home what was really going on here: the early morning run.

I'm an afternoon run kind of a guy. I cherish my sleep in the morning and the clarity and decompression that a good run can levy after a long day of work. But I'm also a little OCD about following my training plan. So, when faced with an evening conflict, I will sacrifice that precious hour of sleep to grope my way through the quiet halls of the house, pull on my shoes, get heckled by kids waiting for the school bus, and run through the world as it comes alive.

The transition is a tad confusing, though. I'd liken it to a minor case of jet lag. Up is down. Down is up. I'm tired when I should be awake. I'm hungry when I'm usually full. And, on the road, it gets lighter when I finish my runs instead of darker. It gets warmer instead of colder. I can't kick back after my shower. I have to *gasp* go to work. But such is life when you've got to "get your run in."

And it's uttering phrases like that that make the recent videos making their way around the internet hit a little too close to home. I'm of course referring to the "Shit Runners Say" series. There's this one that was on Runner's World and this one posted by the Brooks Hansons team.

Last night, I walked through the concourse at Verizon Center toward my seat when my cousin asked the normally rhetorical question: "Do you want a beer?"

"Nah. I think I just want a bottle of water."
She laughed. "No, seriously. What do you want?"
"Seriously, I just want water."
She looked at me like I just kicked her cat. "I have to run in the morning." Blank stare.
"How about a Bud Light, then? That's just as good as water."

Under normal circumstances, this wouldn't be an issue. I'd have already run and would have nearly 24 hours to "recover" (I'm a cheap date). But with a hill workout in less than nine hours staring in me in the face, I muttered, "I've got to get my run in. Sorry."

And so goes the compulsion.

The disruption in the routine takes its effect on me as well. Morning workouts stress me out. I worry that they will take longer than I think and will press me for time. So, I spend the night before making my lunch, my breakfast, getting the coffee ready, and laying out my clothes so that the process runs (so to speak) smoothly. Automatic. Step by step by step all the way out to the car.

And yet, I marvel at my "flexibility," convincing myself that I'm not so rigid to alter my plans to get this run in. Instead, I'm Mr. Go-With-the-Flow and will simply fit the run in elsewhere, morning, noon, night? It doesn't matter. When in fact, as I write this, I think it causes my compulsiveness to flare up even more. If I could make a color-coded spreadsheet or checklist, you can believe there would be one. Actually....

When I do get into the workout, though, that stress leaves me, much the same way the afternoon run puts distance between me and the rigors of the office. And I discover the peacefulness that comes with the cold, still morning when the roads are relatively silent and there's satisfaction in striding by dark houses when the rest of the world is still asleep or the pot of coffee is just starting to brew.

At the moment, I'm not ready to give up my afternoon runs. But, I'm willing to change up the routine to "get my run in."

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