I don’t normally run before work. Waking up when it’s still basically night-time just doesn’t strike me as much fun. But certain circumstances, like doctor appointments or car oil changes, don’t allow much scheduling wiggle room, and render a pre-dawn run a necessity.
Honestly, on the rare occasion when that happens, I usually say “eh…not worth it” and just take the day off from running. But when training for a race, as I am now, I become more neurotic than usual about regulating and limiting the number of calendar boxes that have a big slash through them.
I’ve discovered tricks, or maybe I should say rules, for early-morning running. Number One: Set out running clothes the night before. I’ve never officially tested my mental capacity at 4:15 am, but I have a feeling that the thought required to select clothing might be pushing it. Number Two: When the alarm goes off, get out of bed immediately. If I let myself lie there for 10 seconds or more, I can and will talk myself out of getting up. Number Three: Once out of bed, don’t stop! Don’t think about the temperature, or the fact that numerous constellations are still plainly visible, or that your pants might be on backwards. Whatever. Just get out the door.
Running before sunrise, unsurprisingly, is a heckuva lot different than running 12 hours later. I live close to a great pedestrian path, but to get there I run up a fairly busy street. Any other time of day, I stick to the sidewalk, but not so at 4:30 am. I take an almost perverse delight in running on the asphalt and then, when I reach the normally-hectic intersection I have to cross to get to the path, I sometimes run – !!! – diagonally across the whole thing. Just because I can.
Yep. Such are the things that amuse me when I’m outside before the sun rises.
One of the cool things about being out and about at that hour is the camaraderie felt with other exercisers, whether they’re running, cycling, or walking. There are typically about four of us. In passing, a wave is almost always exchanged (I think actual speech would be asking a little too much). It’s very similar to going out for a run right after a snowstorm, or in a downpour, and spotting another person. Kind of a survivor’s kinship.
The world is a very still place just before dawn. Running along through it forces introspection. Granted, running is good for that anyway, but thoughts become even more magnified when you can’t see anything around you. There’s no visual stimulation. During my last such run, I began to think about the half-marathon I’m running this weekend in Austin. Am I ready for this race? Can I run it faster than my last 13.1? I’ll be training for a full marathon promptly after this half; am I ready, mentally and physically, for that??
Drowsily meditating on all of this, I was startled by a silhouette on a wall nearby – who was that? Where’d they go? Only to realize it was…uh…my own shadow. I ended the run laughing at myself.
I discovered some more rules for pre-dawn runs, and running in general: Relax. Don’t take things so seriously. And the run, the race – they’ll go fine.