Thursday, February 27, 2014

My Morning Fight With Good & Evil

“Morning is wonderful. It's only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.”
Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues

Some of my patients often ask me about my running when they see some of the trinkets I might have innocently hanging in my office, or when I slyly slide a comment in that I'm a little tired from running 15 miles yesterday. Recently, when I told a person that I run at 4:30 in the morning they said they wished they could do that and I'm fortunate that I find that an easy thing to do. I didn't correct them (how can you explain voluntary suffering to a non-runner?) but it made me think about what I do to maintain a consistent schedule of running.

I used to run every day at noon for probably 25 years or so, but then the location of my job changed, and suddenly I found myself without a convenient shower. To me, returning to work at 1:00 sweating like a hot pig in July was fine, but my higher-ups felt this might be a roadblock  to proper patient care, so I was forced to alter my running schedule. I tried a few times to run after work, but that was a complete disaster. I mean, there were all these distractions, like the paper, the TV news, a beer, plus another shower and dinner after the run, and Boom! all of a sudden it's time for bed. 

So, around 7-8 years ago, I switched to a morning runner to get it in before work. The weekends are no problem, never have been. I do my longer runs then and seem content to get the run done and know I can relax afterwards. But, two mornings a week, I do the before-work thing. Now, don't get me wrong, I have grown to absolutely love to the solitude of a run before the sun comes up, but dang it, every morning, when I wake up, I know I'll need to talk myself into my daily activity. Oh heck, actually it starts the night before and each of the times I'll wake up during the night, I have to say "YOU HAVE TO RUN IN XXX AMOUNT OF HOURS". I lay out my clothes the night before so all I have to do is turn the alarm off, grab my pile of clothes, and get myself dressed. Yeah, that sounds easy. But, it seems EVERY morning while I'm brushing my teeth, there's this constant battle between Good and Evil. Staying in bed for another hour sounds SOOOO good. But I want to run. This epic daily battle starts with guilt. I know that if I give into the desire to rest I'll regret that decision for the rest of the day. I mean it will eat at me and drag me down in everything that I do. Not to mention the 10 pounds I will automatically gain because I didn't run for 45 minutes. It's a slippery slope and inconsistency only makes it harder. When I went out this morning for my run I knew that I'd be facing more than sleepiness once the first slap of chilly air hit my face. My stupid Nike+ doesn't particularly like to sync with those distant satellites while I'm still in the house, so I have to stand outside like an idiot standing in a freezer, hearing (I'm sure) my watch laughing until it feels it is appropriate to yell "READY". The starting point was 20 degrees and the wind probably pushed it down to 50 below! Ok, that's an exaggeration on the wind chill, but I really hate cold weather. I almost always listen to music or podcasts when I run solo, so this helps to deflect that stiffness that my legs like to exhibit a mere 20 minutes after waking up. So, down the familiar streets I go until my requisite 4+ miles is done. Some runs are slow as all get out, and some are a little faster than slow as all get out. This morning was the latter, so I was happy I ran (as I usually am). 

The crazy thing is that although every run is not something to write to grandma about, I ALWAYS feel better when it's done. And the crazier thing is that before the first step of that run is taken, I KNOW I'll feel better when it's done. That part is learned, but unfortunately, not ingrained. I don't spring out of bed every day in anticipation of my running experience. There's a figurative wall to climb to get out the door. Sometimes that wall is so high it seems impossible to breach. Most of the time (not ALL the time) I figure it out, even if I have to trick myself into doing it. But I know that the only way my collection of race numbers and medals and just pure satisfaction of still being able to get out there will grow is to do what I do each morning I've made the pre-decision to run. Good will most of the time win out over Evil because Good is in better shape than Evil! Plus, that 1st cup of coffee at work tastes so good. Oh, and then there's those crazy patients..."Did you run this morning?". What kind of an answer is "No, I slept in."?

I'll see you on the early roads - AL
"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Stacey Gordon said...

Good Job Al! I think most of us have the same struggle every morning we get up to run. And you are right, that first cup of coffee after a run on a chilly morning is extra special! I always get annoyed when folks say, "Well you're so lucky you can get up at that hour, I just couldn't do it". Uhm... luck has nothing to do with it.

AL said...

Thanks Stacey. You'd think after 35+ years of running, it would be more of a "woo-hoo" than an "aw, crap" moment when I first open my eyes. I think things get better when it's a little warmer.