4:45am. The dark black night is turning bluish purple, as our part of the earth slowly turns towards the celestial golden orb. I should get up, but I don’t feel like it. I never, ever feel like it. I lie in bed for a while and then grudgingly, I sit up and get up way too fast. I know that I should get up slowly to avoid passing out. I’ll take my chances. If I get up slowly, I may never get up at all.
I stumble out of the room, grab my pile of gear and head downstairs. I don’t turn the lights on. I dare not wake the kids up. Once downstairs, I tiptoe while trying to avoid specific floor boards that creak loudly. The boards always conspire to sabotage my escape. I change sleepily and gather my accessories; a hat, bluetooth earphones, ipod and sunglasses. I look out the window as I take a quick sip of water. The sun’s arrival is announced by a series of colors. I like to think of it as the rainbow sequence backwards, from dark to light.
5:30am. I lace up my runners, put on my earphones, start the running app and cue the playlist.
I turn the doorknob, open the door quietly, step out and take a deep breath. I made it. There’s a summer morning chill. I hit the play button on the running app, “3,2,1 beep.” The music starts to play. I climb down three steps onto the driveway and start to walk briskly. I start to jog before I turn left onto the street. It’s on!
Every run starts the same. My body acts like it’s never done this before. My muscles are tight, I feel out of breath and my mind is inundated with worries, insecurities, regrets and transgressions. Today, I feel like I’m in a whirlpool. There’s a lot going on and I can’t seem to find a foothold. I don’t want to run. “Please help me,” I prayed.
7 minutes. That’s how long it takes to feel remotely alive. During this time, I asked,
“Why am I here?”
“Why doesn’t it get easier?”
“Can I turn back?”
24 years. That’s how long I have been running. That blows my mind. Years ago, in the midst of teenage angst, I felt lost and frustrated. I was not sporty. Any form of exertion was akin to punishment not pleasure. The condition of my heart racing, sweat dripping and lungs gasping for air was to be avoided. I was desperate and needed something to do. My high school had a field and I had a pair of shoes. I started walking, then I would run for a few minutes and walk for a few more. It was brutal. Eventually, it got easier, not easy.
There is a tagline I heard recently in an ad, ‘I’m not a runner, but I run!’ I came up with this line years before they did.
Runners, ‘serious’ runners generally share some traits. They have a lean, athletic build and intense focus. They move with precision, no movement is wasted. They are also slightly crazy; you need to be in order to run a ridiculous number of miles just because you can. They are sports apparel savvy. They have the latest in gear that is breathable, sweat proof and has cooling layers. They are running shoe junkies. Regular runners won’t do, shoes have to be designed for performance.
Serious runners are all about stats. Their runs are defined by terms such as speed, distance, heart rate, previous time, best time, terrain and pace. They are diet conscious. Lastly, they make running look easy
I am not a ‘serious’ runner. I definitely do not have a lean, athletic build nor will I ever. I consider a good meal one of life’s pleasures. Running is hard, hard, hard!
I have run in different places, in different seasons for different reasons.
I have run by the ocean and by lakes, downtown and in the countryside. I have run on most Christmas mornings and on most of my birthdays. I have run in spring, summer and fall but rarely in winter. I have run on my happiest days and my darkest days.
18 months ago. I ran 48 hours after my little sister’s funeral. I did not think I could do it and I was unsure if my heart could bear it, burdened as it was. With every breath I took, pain, sorrow and anguish coursed through my veins. Each breath was painful, a reminder that she was no longer breathing. I ran down paths that she had walked just days before. Tears mingled with sweat, gasps with sobs.
The common thread throughout the years is that I run at dawn or just before dawn. There is magic and mystery in the space between the end of night and daybreak. Silence permeates the landscape and the only sounds are those of nature; birdsongs and bird calls. There is also the sound of my breathing and the crunch beneath my feet as I run.
There is a sense of power and promise that is heralded at dawn. A sense of power as I watch a spectacle that all of mankind has witnessed and the promise of the possibilities each day holds.
There are also the vivid smells of damp grass in the country, the putrid smell of roadkill, or skunk spray in a nearby ditch. I have encountered stray dogs, skunks, deer, flocks of geese, foxes and cattle. I have been chased and mauled by horseflies, taunted by a gander guarding goslings and narrowly escaped a skunk shower.
6:30 am. “2 kilometres to go,” says the app. My resolve weakens, fatigue sets in and my body starts to revolt. I need to stop. Instead, I sing and dance. I pump my fists to the beat and swish and sway, every stride in step with the beat.
6:35 am. “1 kilometre to go.” The sun is on its throne. I feel its heat, fully unleashed. I wave to a dog walker and turn to the left. Home stretch. I dig deep and sprint home. It’s done.
6:39 am. Today was a hard one. It’s always hard.The best part is always at the end. I turn the doorknob, glance at the bright blue cloudless sky, say a prayer of thanks and step in. I think I’m ready to face the day.