Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Waking up the World

Empty morning streets laid before me.
My bladder woke me up at 5:20. Then my internal clock had me up at 6:30 – when the alarm usually goes off five days out of the week. I lingered a moment longer before swinging my legs out of bed, pulling on my running clothes, and slinking downstairs. The dog followed me curiously, perpetually asking with her tilted head, “Am I going too?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that not only wasn’t she going but in 60 short minutes she’d be getting her “summer” haircut. But I digress.

I gave myself 90 minutes to squeeze in 12 miles before having to shower, throw on my Caps gear, and head downtown. Timing was everything. Mrs. Onthebusrunning was going to Crossfit. I caught a ride with her to then hitch a ride on the metro, to get downtown for the game, only to rendezvous with her across town after the game for a friend’s wedding. Whew. I’m tired all over again just recounting it.

But for those 90 minutes, the morning was mine.

When I stepped out the door and walked toward the speed hump that marks the start line, the humidity already clung to me. And it’s only May, I thought, clicking my watch and starting out. My body felt light and the pace easy while I clicked along. The steady white noise of rush hour had gone and when I made the turn onto the main road, I saw why: it was as though the world still slept. I elided over the sidewalk, flying through each intersection in the uncommon solitude.

I glanced down at my watch around one mile and noted the swift 6:50 pace that felt like 7:30s. This could be a good morning, I allowed myself to think.

I had some reservations going into this run. First and foremost, the time constraint, but second, it was my first foray into double digits since my shi--, err, less than stellar, half marathon back in March. But I had several consistent seven to nine milers over the past couple weeks to draw from. I purposefully left the GPS watch at home and instead just velcroed on my cheap-o watch, which doesn’t take into account my pace. I could just run.

The first four miles of my 12 mile loop pass along a fairly significant highway as well as a sprawling strip mall. Admittedly, it’s not the most pleasant four miles, but at mile four, the shops and noise disappear and the route rolls through a series of neighborhoods and parks. Most notably, it cuts behind the neighborhood I grew up in and I’m always pleasantly transported back to my days riding my bike on these same trails, disappearing into the woods, and splashing through the creek on boyhood adventures.

By mile six, I traded pavement for crushed gravel and wove my way through the Big Rocky Run Trail. The pace was fast and it spurred me on despite only being halfway. Sweat flung off me with each arm swing but I felt fluid and strong.

From seven to eight, the route climbs through the streets that house my old neighborhood pool. I girded myself for the climb but rather than slowing down or matching the effort, I dropped the pace. With four miles to go, I reentered the trail and the humidity grew thicker as the sun rose and baked the air under the trees. The creek trickled by off to my right.

At the trail head, I had two miles to go and jogged across the Parkway. The last two miles climbed relentlessly but I told myself that I’d be all the stronger for it despite the suffering. I knew I couldn’t let these last two miles ruin what had become a self-proclaimed “blog-worthy” run, the kind that writes itself as you run.

My neighborhood appeared ahead and wife drove by honking having just dropped the dog off. The street had grown busier since I'd left it some 60 plus minutes ago, the world finally waking up around me. My stride opened up to finish strong. I clicked my watch and took a long pull on my water bottle. The watch read 1:20:03. Sweat ran into my eyes. It burned but so did my legs, the good kind after a job well done.

We sat together on our front step and chatted for a moment while the warmish air cooled my skin. When we decided to go in, I still had plenty of time to spare…and a full day ahead of me. 

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