Running doesn’t come easy for me. The first few blocks are pure hell. Psyching myself to go for a run is a marathon in itself. Each new day is like starting over. Even after 30 years, it’s still the same.
Before I run there are a few things I do first. The Monday to Friday pre-run routine and ritual goes something like this:
1. Get up early. 5:00am at the latest. Except for the summer months, it’s dark outside and quiet inside. The house is hushed and still in the undisturbed darkness before dawn. Just how I like it.
2. Put on sweatpants and T-shirt or some other comfortable running attire. These are found heaped on the floor next to the bed where I left them the night before. I prepare ahead.
3. Grope my way through the hallway to the kitchen where I put on the kettle. Sometimes I hit the bathroom first and take a pee.
4. Head to my office where I check emails and cruise through Facebook while the kettle boils. Sometimes I read a Cowbird story.
5. Make a cup of Tetley’s Orange Pekoe tea. I like how the round bags fit perfectly int the bottom of the Vegas mug D gave me.
6. Practice yoga for an hour. Because I’m so spiritual I do this in front of the TV. Depending on my mood it’s either Steven & Chris or CMT. Until January it was CNN but I stopped that because it was counter productive and stressed me out.
7. Make the bed and tidy my office. I hate clutter and can’t get into an unmade bed. Just one of my many quirks.
8. Make my lunch for work. This is usually a salad and some kind of protein. I don’t really care what I eat for lunch just as long as it’s reasonably healthy and doesn’t make me sleepy by two.
9. Boil the kettle again. Make a cup of coffee spiked with cinnamon. I like to live dangerously. I also add cream, which is completely over-the-top and edgy.
10. Head back to my office, pull out my latest Hilroy notebook, a blue Bic pen and write my daily letter to God. This is private. But possibly some of my best writing.
11. Sip my creamy cinnamon coffee and say my prayers. I don’t get down on my knees. This hurts too much. God knows and doesn’t expect it of me. We’re pretty tight.
12. If it’s cold out, I throw on my big old grey hoodie with the bleach splatters and pills under the arms. If it’s warm than the T-shirt is all I need. I don’t wear a bra. I like to flop when I run.
13. Head downstairs and lace up my sneakers. Nothing fancy here. Nor expensive. If they aren’t on sale I don’t buy them. One of my best pair of runners came from Zellers. This was before Target took over.
14. Check the clock next to the back door. I don’t know why I do this. I never check it when I return and I don’t time my runs. I really don’t care how long it takes.
15. Walk around to the side of the house, past the Camellia tree, the bamboo and the old rose bush that scares the shit out of me.
16. Open the front gate, take a deep breath, hesitate momentarily, mumble ‘what the fuck’ under my breath and hit the streets.
I start to run immediately. It’s uphill right out of the gate. Brutal. Punishing. Grueling. My legs are already tired and I feel the burn. It’s killing me and I haven’t even gone a block. All I can think about is how lousy I feel.
But just when I think I can’t run another step, the sidewalk slopes downward and I coast along for the next bit. This is where grace and mercy come into play.
It’s during this little stretch that I set the pace. This is different every day. It all depends on how I feel that morning. Not just physically but emotionally. One day I could be the hare. The next, the tortoise. Sometimes I feel like a freebird. Other days, a slug. There are mornings where I feel like I could run forever. Or at least a mile or two. Maybe even ten. Then there are days – many, many days – where I ask myself, ‘what the hell are you doing?’ I just want to roll over onto the boulevard and curl up like a wood bug. Go to sleep. For a long time. Like Rip Van Winkle. Some days, my youth is renewed like the eagles. Others, I’m an old wizened woman. Gnarled. Weather-beaten.
The difference between a good day and a bad one usually comes down to rhythm. I don’t plug in while I run. No iTunes. No playlists. No music. No motivational talks. No podcasts. None of that.
I listen to my soul. My heartbeat. My inner cadence.
I hear the sound of my breathing. My footsteps on the concrete. Crows squawking on the telephone lines. The voices of the squirrels. Leaves rustling. Wind howling. Gentle breezes calling. Dogs barking. Cars racing. Doors slamming. All the early morning reverberations.
I hear the silence. And the pauses between the clamor. I hear God whispering my name.
It is here that I get in the groove. Find my rhythm. This is the sweet stuff of running. This is the meditative place. Where everything works. My body, mind and spirit are all in tune. Harmonious. Peaceful. Grounded.
I run to the rhythm of me.