It’s 5:10 AM and the buzzing of my phone alarm beside my pillow signals it is time to get moving. I shuffle out of bed, put in my contacts, feed the cat, and start warming the kettle for my pour over coffee. By 5:45, I am out on the dark quiet sidewalk, starting my miles under the stars and the moon, if I am lucky. Sometimes I greet clouds or fog. An overcast sky is incredibly striking when lit by the streetlamps; the eerily punctuated ecru disappearing only as the sky itself brightens with the coming dawn. As the fall settles herself in, there are the mornings of bluster and rain. And certainly, more rain and wind to come…
Over the summer, I became an early morning runner. It started as a way to beat the heat. I figured if I could get in a run before 7:00 AM, I would enjoy some of the coolest and freshest air of the day. At first, it felt challenging to run so early. I had to fine-tune the amount of time I needed between waking up and lacing up my shoes. Rushing made me flustered, but too much time tempted me to stay in my slippers and drink another cup of coffee. I had to rewire my brain circuitry to reclaim the joy of running during a season when I had just returned to reliably uninterrupted nights of sleep. Despite all of these factors, I found the results of running before the rest of the day’s noise, panic, rhythm, and people to be irresistibly fortifying. The mornings, which I, as a working mother of two, had grown deeply accustomed to experiencing as frustrating, harried, and overwhelming, became, over time, a sanctuary for my own silence and movement.
I write, now, as a full convert to the daily morning run. I still enjoy my walks in the woods at lunch during the work week, and my long runs on the weekends and days away from the office, but the early morning miles are a particularly potent balm to mitigate stress and angst as I begin the day. And my mindset has changed from hoping that I can squeeze in a run after work, to returning home with the satisfaction that I am actually quite finished with the labors of the day, able to retire to the evening routine with my family. I joke with my dearest ones that morning running makes me less of an asshole when I get to the office. I am partially serious. In a new position with increased responsibilities from supervising to teaching, my days flow best when I begin with a full cup of empathy. Personally, running practice has always afforded me the quiet stillness, deep inside, from which to bloom thoughtful, productive, and loving sentiments.
This summer I really felt a transformational leap in my running. I learned new trails, ran and hiked new mountains, and have found new approaches to maintaining a high weekly mileage without injury or burnout. Life is comprised of seasons, and the intensity of a running practice waxes and wanes. For the time being, I find returning home to a slumbering house after an entire adventure under the cover of the night’s last hours to be exactly right in this moment.