Wednesday night’s six mile run was one of those magically great runs you always hope for when you step out the door. The kind of run that’s a perfect storm of everything good: good weather, good temperature, good legs, good mood, good health, and good friends. The kind of run that feels effortless, as if you could pull a Dean Karnazes and run all night long.
The kind of run that reminds us why we love running so much.
After last summer’s record breaking temperatures, I swore I would never again complain about running in the cold. Every day was a marathon of complaining about the heat, and no one complained more vociferously than I did. I was in a seriously bad mood for about six months. I was starting to think I was becoming a permanently negative person.
Now that it’s finally, finally colder, I’ve found myself some mornings procrastinating and trying to find excuses not to run. I see the trees moving, that means it’s a little windy, and that wind must be pretty cold. I quickly shake it off, though, and remember how any run below 100 degrees used to be something to celebrate.
Time to quit whining and enjoy our few short months of winter.
After wearing the bare minimum of clothing all summer, it’s sometimes hard to figure out exactly how much to wear when the temperatures start to drop. We all usually start out the first few cold runs by overdressing. Somehow, on this perfect night, I manage to wear just enough to stay both warm and cool at the same time.
There’s something special about nighttime running in the winter, especially on a clear night around Christmas. The run down to the lake is especially dark through the trees, and the cold air keeps the pace brisk. On this particular run there’s electricity in the air since so many people have recently completed marathons. There are enough PR’s and I’m-a-badass endorphins to go around to light up the night. A street lamp goes off as we turn the corner, confirmation that we don’t need the artificial light.
It just feels so good to run.
Once we get down to the lake, everyone converges at the water fountain, even though they’ve all been shut off. The stars are shining overhead, the lake is smooth as glass, and everyone seems to have forgotten that we’re in the middle of a run and not a party. Someone finally sends out a shout to get going, and we take off running again, along the edge of the lake. How many times have we run along this exact same path? Hundreds of times, if not more, but tonight it’s like a route I’ve never taken before, fresh and smooth and inviting.
Two miles farther and another water stop with no water. No worries. Cold beer is waiting just ahead. All we have to do is run up Meadowlake and Sperry, two old friends we know only too well. Even though I usually dread running up these two hills, especially Sperry, tonight I’m looking forward to it. My legs feel fresh and strong, and I’m in love with hills again.
Everyone’s quiet as we run up the hill, and houses glow with Christmas lights and trees in the windows. Running up Sperry brings back memories of training for Boston, when I was in the best shape of my life, and I wonder if I’ll ever be fast enough to go back. Almost immediately I have the thought, I have this, tonight, and that’s enough for now.
Finally, we’re back at Hillside, and into the warmth of Fuzzy’s, good friends, and an ice cold mug of beer. All is right in the world, and nothing could ever be better than this perfect storm of everything good on a cold December night’s run.
Somehow after running the Boston Marathon last year, my blog–and my running life–seemed to run out of steam. It wasn’t so much that I lost interest in things, it was more like letting the air out of the balloon, very, very slowly. Last summer was much hotter than normal, and I ran a lot less because of it. I got slower, and I lost my running spark. Many of my friends were training for the NYC Marathon and I felt cut adrift–and a little sad that I wasn’t going with them. I bailed on running my planned marathon in November and focused instead on training for the Death Valley Marathon this past February (which will be an upcoming blog in the very near future). I struggled to keep up with my training partner on our midweek sort-of-long runs and couldn’t figure out what had happened to my joy of running. Unlike the Lucinda Williams song that laments “you took my joy, I want it back,” I couldn’t just “go to West Memphis and look for my joy.” Mostly I wondered, what is going on with me?
I suppose everyone goes through cycles of good running and bad running, but this was larger than that. I wasn’t depressed, everything just seemed off. It all seemed to go back to Boston. I was extremely disappointed in getting sick days before the marathon, but in the end it wasn’t a big deal. Qualifying for Boston was a bigger deal to me; running the race was the icing on the cupcake. I remember feeling the same way when I graduated from college. I had busted my butt for four years, taking it all so seriously and checking my GPA over and over, only to find myself in cap and gown wondering, that’s it? I wished I had allowed myself to have more fun in college. In hindsight, I think I did the same thing to myself with running. I had pushed myself mile after mile, always trying to get faster and stronger, but I had forgotten to have fun.
So here I am, still looking for my joy. Though I still seem to be struggling with my running, I have made some changes. It’s Spring Break and I haven’t run once the entire week. Some of that is because of my allergies, but most of it is because I just haven’t felt like it. And you know what, I’m not beating myself up for feeling that way. The pre-Boston me would’ve been mortified to take off from running for a week, but the post-Boston me is okay with being an occasional schlub. I have also decided not to run another marathon for awhile. Six is good for now. As a matter of fact, I’m not planning on racing at all. Most, if not all, of my runs will be for fun and at a comfortable pace. My Garmin died about three weeks ago and I have enjoyed running without thinking about my pace every few minutes. I have also bought a pair of Merrell Pace Gloves, which are similar to Vibrams without the five fingers, and enjoy running in almost nothing on my feet. I’ve even run a mile or so barefoot, and loved feeling like a kid again.
Will it all work? Will I be able to return to the days when I couldn’t wait to get home so I could tie up my shoes and hit the pavement? Will I find my joy again? Only time will tell, but chances are good I will, as long as I don’t forget to have fun.