I still get a little nervous when I head out on a run. What if I can’t make it back? What if I have a bad run? What if my knee starts hurting? What if I get cold? What if… what if… what if…
I opened the front door, closed my eyes and felt the cool air on my face. That first step out the door was like walking into an alternate reality; a unique world where my anxious mind becomes quiet and I allow my fiery, competitive alter-ego take over control. I willingly left the warmth and safety of my home and exposed myself to the crisp morning air and unknown run that lay ahead. A half smile emerged on my face and I knew I was ready for any challenge that the road would throw at me today. So began today’s sunrise run.
Today’s run was particularly unique as I started at 5 am, about a half hour earlier than my usual mid-week runs, with the intent of completing 13.5 miles. I mentally approach a long run very differently than a tempo or a recovery run; on a long run I allow my thoughts to wander, actually, I encourage it. Long runs allow for me to face my fears about running, organize my thoughts about the day, and even just take in the world around me. Believe it or not, running distances over 10 miles can be an incredibly relaxing experience.
During the first 30 minutes of my run I was guided by moonlight. With relatively few cars on the road I couldn’t help but stare at the crescent moon in the dark sky above. Music was being blasted into my ears, but this time I wasn’t listening. I reveled in the peaceful nature of the darkness. I shifted my eyes from the moon to the road as a few early commuters caught my attention. They do this every day and today I was just a blip on their radar, a reflective vest that they needed to swerve around. In my mind the moonlit road belonged to those who regularly endured the early commute; out of respect I quickly moved to the sidewalk.
The sun rose behind my back but it could not keep its presence a secret for long. By mile four the darkness of the night slowly slipped away as the rising sun fought its way over the horizon. As the world sped up I kept myself at a consistent 8:30 minute pace.
My thoughts drifted. What would it be like to go back to a full time job? How do people have the patience to wait in the Dunkin drive-through lane? I might not be moving at super-speed now but I feel strong. I feel bad-ass. I want to race. Ahh the race! November 3rd! A good runner controls his/her pace, not the other way around. Focus. Stay calm. Slow down.
Mile 6. I see my first fellow runner of the morning. I do the standard head-nod and wave. Even though I am happy to be on my own this morning I wouldn’t mind a running buddy. Someone to challenge me, talk to and simply pass the time. Note to self: look up local running clubs.
Mile 8: I turn around at the far point of the route to make my way back and I am greeted by the sun. Commuters were on their way to work and many were stopping for their morning coffee break. I trudged on at the same pace. It was just that simple. While the rest of the world was faced with traffic lights, honking horns and Dunkin runs I ran on. No need to rush my morning along. At this point I was no longer running, simply gliding along effortlessly. I had found the pace that would work for me and felt like I could keep going for another ten miles if I had to.
The rest of the run wasn’t particularly eventful. In fact one may argue that the entire run was boring- not me though. This peaceful morning was outside my front door the whole time. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or that I’m a mother to a noise-making toddler and regularly barking Labrador Retriever but I have recently come to find sanctuary in the quiet. Maybe I really did enter an alternate reality. Today I was just a quiet observer of the dawn. Today I watched the world wake up and I reveled in every mile of it.