I haven’t written a post like this since 2014, so I felt it was overdue.
4:25 a.m. My iPhone alarm sings out its Constellation tune. It’s dark, my bed is warm, I hit snooze and roll over taking my phone with me. I lay in the dark with my eyes open knowing I don’t actually have ten more minutes. Within two minutes or so of my initial alarm our year-old basset hound, Archie, quickly makes his way over to my side of the bed. He pops his front paws up on the side of the bed and paws at me until I roll over. I’m greeted with intense sniffing of my face and another paw, these are his signs of affection. I quietly tell him good morning and that he was a good boy sleeping on his bed all night. This is a skill he has only recently mastered. He sits beside the bed as I check the current temperature on my phone before finally putting my feet on the ground.
I pick up my pile of running clothes that I had laid out the night before from the bench outside the bathroom. I head inside the bathroom and Archie follows, taking a seat on the bathmat before slipping out to wait by the bedroom door. I lay my heart rate monitor on the edge of the heating vent – I’ve learned that putting on a cold heart rate monitor first thing in the morning isn’t a pleasant start. Then the layering begins. Base tights, wool socks, outer tights. Sports bra, heart rate monitor, running top, ID bracelet.
Outside of the bathroom, I pull my hair up in a topknot and slip on my ear warmer. I put my sweatshirt on, throw my buff over my head, and place my watch on over my sleeve. After securing my reflective vest I put on my headlamp, or “head sun” as my husband calls it for its brightness, lace up my pair of shoes for the morning, stick my gloves in my pockets, and meet Archie by the bedroom door. Gus, our older dog, glances up but ultimately decides to stay in bed. He tucks his head back down and ignores us as we leave.
Archie is eager to get out of the room and jumps up as if he will turn the knob himself. In the hall he slowly begins to feel his way down the stairs until I follow behind him with my head lamp. He takes off down the stairs and heads to the kitchen just in case my husband or I happened to leave some type of food out. I quietly call out to him that it’s time to go out. I clip on his leash and we head outside. He does his business and lallygags for a minute before leading me back to the front door. I put him back to bed and slip outside, locking the door behind me.
Outside the moon shines brightly and a chilly wind blows. I press the button on my watch and begin to warm up while I wait for it to find the satellite. Quietly I do butt kicks, high kicks, easy jogs, as if doing these things too loudly will somehow wake the world up. I take a second to switch on my blinking red light. It’s cold and I am looking forward to getting warmed up. I press start and switch my screen to show my heart rate as I slowly begin my run. I move slowly down the road and into another neighborhood making notice of which houses are still dark and which are beginning to wake up. A dried leaf dances along somewhere across the road and I glance over, just in case.
The occasional wind chime rings out. A dog barks from inside, alerting its owners of the crazy woman with the head lamp and reflective vest running by their home. But most of the time, it’s quiet. It’s peaceful. I love it. The next 12 hours will be filled with sound. Phone calls, meetings, chats with coworkers, noisy traffic and “hellos” as I walk the dogs after work. For now, my mind is allowed to just drift.
I notice things. Like how the sheriff’s car isn’t in the driveway this morning and a “For Sale” sign is on the lawn that wasn’t there last week. I think about how I liked knowing a sheriff lived there and wonder why they’re moving. I notice that it’s gotten cloudy and wish that the stars had stayed out.
I alternate between having the buff over my face and pulling it down once I get warm. The scenery drifts by. My watch beeps in the next mile. Not once do I think about what I have to do during the day, night, or the next. I’m in the moment soaking up every minute of my “me” time. I occasionally glance at my watch to make sure my heart rate is in check and check on my form, but today is an easy run day so it’s easy to just relax.
A car approaches and I know the driver sees me because it moves further into the middle of the road. I wave “thank you” as it goes by. I see a woman walking her two dogs. She never says hello, but one of her dogs always does. Most of the time though, I’m alone. It’s winter. It’s cold. People send their dogs out into the yard or keep the walk short. The other morning exercisers I see in the summer wait until it warms up in the spring to venture back outside.
I’m on my final mile for the morning and I’m ready to be finished with my run, but I also don’t want it to end. I want more quiet time, more time moving outside. Finally my watch beeps in the final mile for the morning and I press stop. I walk the short way back to my front door, unlock it, and step in to a greeting from both dogs. It’s only been about an hour since I left, but they’re happy to see I’m back and I’m happy to see them.
My husband is awake now, though he never truly goes back to sleep once I leave. Archie likes to check on him periodically to make sure he’s aware that he is awake and would be willing have some attention or eat breakfast.
I spend then next 15 minutes stretching. Calves, quads, hips, feet. I feel relaxed, refreshed. I wish I could take a shower and crawl back into bed, but instead it’s time to start the day.
My morning run is over.