Sunday, January 27, 2013

Night Running

For the first time in nearly a decade, I've found it challenging to run regularly.

No, I haven't suddenly lost my joy of slapping feet on pavement. Nor have I injured myself or reached the point at which muscles, tendons and joints rebel.

For a while, I could blame the fall off on our move to Iowa. There was so much to do – find a town and a home in which to live, transition to a new job and a newly created one at that with its attendant expectations and pressures. Then, once we did move to our home, we were consumed by all the renovations needed to make it habitable.

And, oh yeah, we have two very active young boys.

So, on this long to-do list, running pretty much took up the caboose. Even as we got more settled in our house and I more comfortable with what I was doing at work, I still was having difficulty carving out the time to run.

I could hardly blame the children, or Michelle, for the lack of time. I mean, I could wake up early in the morning, before work, and go for a jog. A lot of people do that. But I'm not a morning person. I'll be darned if I'm going to watch the sunrise as I'm grimacing through a workout. In fact, the last time I forced myself to run in the early morning was when I was training for my first marathon in 2003. And yet the few times I managed to roust myself, I do remember an intense feeling of satisfaction as I watched the sun rise above the ocean and bathe me with first rays, like I had been born again. But despite the emotional rapture, I mostly avoided morning jogs.

Nights are tough, too. That's children time, and it simply wouldn't be fair to give that up for my own wants and needs.

I had a handy runaround for a while. I ran twice a week during the lunch hour with some coworkers from my department and other offices around the Brown U. campus. The building where I worked had a shower, so it was easy to pop in, wash up and be back at my desk with little time in transit. Plus, I could check my email immediately after the run, in the off chance that I needed to respond to something immediately.

It was a very good gig, better than I should have known.

There's no such arrangement here. No coworkers to run with during lunch. And, worse, no nearby shower. Instead, there's a university rec center that I can pay to join (inexpensively, I might add), but it's several blocks away. Likewise, the city's rec center is several blocks away (although with free lockers and showers). Logistically, it just makes the whole exercise a lot tougher.

It all left me with a gnawing frustration. I need an outlet; and, I'm not talking about crocheting, or something like that. Real, physical activity, to clear my mind and wear out my body. That's what I need, or I feel caged, bottled up.

In short, I needed to figure out how to get running again.

A couple of weeks ago, it finally dawned on me: How about running at night? Come home after work, play with the children for a bit, sit with them for dinner, put them to sleep. And when that's all done, go out for a run.

The thought had crossed my mind before, but I had swatted it away. I didn't feel comfortable not seeing where I was running, afraid I would step into a hole or trip over something in the road. I also didn't have any fluorescent running clothes, which made me fearful of not being seen by a wayward car. And, by the time we get the children in bed, it's usually pushing 8 o'clock, and my mind is closer to bed than to anything else.

Something had to give. It was either night or nothing. So, one night about three weeks ago I skipped dinner and after getting the children to sleep, I slipped on a light-colored winter running shirt and took off.

The neat thing about our little town is it doesn't take long to get out of it. This is no urban jungle. In fact, where we live, I'm on a rural road in minutes. My favorite one is a straight shot north out of town. I slip by the Cornell College ballfields, over the railroad tracks and countryside, here I am. I chug along, over one small rise, past a house on the right and its barking dog, over a bridge and the iced sliver of a creek. A little farther on, I see the lights of a smattering of houses in the woods on the right, and then it's up another rise to a view toward the horizon in all directions. I run a while longer, my breath leaving a wispy trail with each exhale in the cold air. The turnaround is a real highlight. As soon as I do it, I look up, and soak in the stars in the southern sky, fully illuminated, a jumble of constellations framed against the faint silkiness of the Milky Way. Directly in front of me on the horizon are the twinkling golden lights on the hill and a church spire silhouetted against the night sky.

I smile and plod toward home.

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