After Henry was born and as I eased back into exercise, I decided that morning running would be my thing. When I was offered a bib for the Boston Marathon in December, I swore to Nik that I would get up to run at 4:40 each morning, hit the gym at 5:00, and be home to nurse and get the baby and I ready for the day by 6:00 or 6:30 max. Nik encouraged me to take a bit more time before committing myself, rationalizing that I was just going back to work, Henry was just starting daycare, and that he wasn’t quite making it through the night just yet. He’s so close though! I replied. I’m telling you, this is totally going to work.
Today, April 16, four months later, I got up to run for the first time. At 5:15 instead of 4:40. For a quick three miles instead of 6-8. Dropping Henry in bed with Nik since either my alarm woke him up or he actually senses the exact moment I’m trying to make a quick escape. Henry means ‘ruler of the home’, Nik mumbled, reminding me of a detail we had laughed about six months earlier.
So, not exactly the way I’d envisioned it. I’m mentioned before, I have a tendency to dream and Nik leans a bit more toward the practical. Opposites attract, if not after a few rather tense debates over who’s right.
Still, I got out for a quick morning run and, with about 25 minutes to spare it set the perfect goal: a sub-8:00 three miler.
Odds were in my favor, having taken a rest day yesterday after a lower-half scorching circuit workout Tuesday night. It was cool, but comfortable and light enough out to be sure-footed. My fear of wrong-place-wrong-time ax murderers was canceled out by the urgency of just needing to get it done so Nik and I could get showered, have the baby fed, and run out the door to actually start the day.
I bounded out of the neighborhood — as much as I ever bound, that is — determined to hear the computerized voice on my run app validate me with split times. It really was that perfect time of morning, daybreak or whatever — dawn — when the light is soft and air is still, when you feel like the only one around. I hit the overpass where my GPS logs mile one and waited, mile one split: 7:40 pace.
Next up: up. So familiar with this loop, I knew the next hill would carry me .6 miles uphill before taking a left and sending me back down. I focused on my form, on sending my elbows back and launching from the middle and top of my foot, actively distracting myself from the dull burn in my butt and legs, a lingering reminder of squat jumps, and sumo squats, and step-ups a few nights before. I ran close to the shoulder, over brush and through sandy spots, hoping not to slip and fall. At the top, I took a deep breath and headed back down, this time on a sidewalk alongside a busy road. Then, at the bottom, the turn for home. A block into my return, the automated voice spoke up, mile two split: eight minutes, three seconds.
Fine, I reassured myself. When more than half the mile is a climb, it’s fine.
Of course, I knew that the next mile would bring me up again, in short little bursts, but up nonetheless. Tired by now, and aware that I was due home, I worked to keep it up. The moon, whisper thin and beautiful during the first half of my run, disappeared and dull, orange light burned at the skyline: morning.
Pushing for home, I turned back onto the road that would bring me there, with a tiny shoulder and even more climb. You have at least a few seconds on your side, I reminded myself, thinking back to the 20 I had banked downhill on mile one. Keep going. I thought about a friend of mine running Boston Monday, and about his 20 miler goal pace. 7:30ish. Yikes. There are moments I wonder if I could qualify if I applied myself. If I really worked hard. If I committed. Knowing my next thought was bound to be negative, was bound to berate myself, I buried it and dug in for the last little stretch. Distance: three miles. Split pace, 7:51.
Still a half mile from home, I slowed to a walk and clicked around my phone to complete the workout, unwilling to let the hills back to my house on the cool down to skew my numbers. 3 miles, 23 minutes 37 seconds, 7:52 pace. I picked it back up to a jog and texted Nik that I was at the end of the block and on my way back. I took a deep breath and paid quick attention to my body, noting that my shoes felt shot and thankful a new pair will arrive in the mail tonight. With a glance at the time, I calculated how we’d manage to get out of the house by 7:15, already switching into real-life-mode.
Kicking off my shoes at the door, I headed for the shower, ready to start the day.
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