Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thoughts of a Pre-dawn Runner

"Genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger" - Caldwell B. Esselstyn

If you keep up the habit of running early in the morning long enough, you may pick up some interesting behaviors, display some personality quirks, and notice some things normal-time runners may not observe. I've been running early (I mean real early) in the pre-dawn hours (see what I mean by real early) for several years now. It was sorta forced on me by changes of my job venue. I used to run at noontime for over two decades, but when I changed to a different PT clinic in our Orthopedic/Rehab practice, I wasn't forced to run before work, but I felt it was only fair to my colleagues and patients to make the change since there was no shower. It was bad enough that at my former clinic after running at noon in the Alabama summer, I would come back after showering to see my 1:00 patient still sweating like I had Malaria. Doesn't instill much confidence to the patients that you're asking, "So, what brings you in today?" while you're toweling your face off and sweating through your shirt.

I grudgingly switched to setting the alarm at 4:30am, hopping (ha!!) out of bed, brushing my teeth, shaving, putting my running clothes on and be on the road by 4:50 (or 5:00 in the winter - more clothes!). I can usually tell in the first 10 steps if my ankles and muscles are going to enjoy this run, or if I'm going to literally drag my butt around the 4+ miles of Hoover streets for 45 minutes (or 50 minutes if my body really balks). But, now it's a habit, and even on the weekend, I look forward to an early start so I have an early finish. Along the way, I noticed that I have developed certain behaviors, traits, whatever...just a different perspective on running runners! Here are a few of those observations.

1. I consider 6am "sleeping in". If there is a Saturday or Sunday where I don't have a run planned, I still get up early, make coffee, read the paper, watch English soccer on TV, and wonder to myself "What's wrong with you?". Even if I want to force myself to sleep late, my body gets me up before 7 anyway.

2. I always get my running clothes out the night before. Don't want to be seen (if I could be seen) with mis-matched socks, you know. Winter is more of a challenge because when it gets below 30 degrees, I pile the layers on. This decision making would be too much of an early morning process, so by bedtime, it's ready to go. I never do this much fretting with my work clothes!

3. I run the same route every weekday morning. Most know-it-all magazines say to vary your route, but I find the same route comforting to me. Plus I know instinctively where the road suddenly dips or has a rise. With my finely tuned nimbleness as I get older and my ankles getting stiffer, this is definitely a plus.

4. I also notice that I have no idea what the names are of some of the streets are that I run by each morning. It's too dark to see the street signs. What's with that? 

5. I know the sound of the Newspaper delivery cars. One that goes by me has a pretty defective muffler that I can hear a (figurative) mile away. Normally, that would be irritating, but as he passes me, he gently taps his horn. If I could see him, he's probably waving too.

6. I know the sprinkler schedule for most homes along my route. I can't see the water from the sprinkler, but through being "kicked by the mule" more than once, I know where they are. Nothing like getting spritzed halfway through your dark, cold, winter 40 degree run. Greatly diminishes the relaxation aspect of the run!

7. I can deftly reset my mp3 player by the dim High-pressure Sodium street light hues I run under (not sure about that "pressure sodium" stuff, but I think I read that once). 

8. I HATE the sound (real or imagined) of dogs when all I can see is dark. A squirrel-sized mutt becomes a stalking coyote. Dogs can see better than me, so I just go into my "throwing the fake rock" act and they usually retreat (at least the sound seems to retreat).

9. If I get out early enough on the weekend, I can actually complete my run, shower, and take a quick (mostly unintentional) nap before my wife wakes up. Plus, I'm usually ready for some leftover pizza or pasta by 10am!

10. One big drawback...if you miss your morning run, you have the whole day to feel guilty and fat, whereas, if you're an after work runner, in a couple of hours, you'll be sound asleep.

And so, another day dawns. Al has gotten his run in. The world will stay on it's axis for another 24 hours at least. 

Unless it's too dark, I'll see you on the roads - AL 

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world" 

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