When my alarm went off this morning I was angry.
I was angry because I didn’t get enough sleep and I was staring down another cold run on icy, snowy paths. I was angry because it is February 1st and realistically, there is so much winter left to face – so many cold, snowy days yet to endure.
I lie awake in bed for ten minutes – trying to calm myself down and pump myself to face the day – before throwing back the covers and stumbling to the restroom. I make coffee and get dressed for my run – long socks and spandex shorts, sports bra, running tights, spandex long-sleeve top, half zip and a jacket – too much clothing. My sleepy fingers struggle to pull on all the layers of stretchy, tight material.
I’ve learned to give myself an extra ten minutes before heading out for my morning run. Ten minutes to drink coffee, scroll through social media, enjoy the stillness of my apartment and the relative calm of the city outside. I send off a snarky tweet about the Iowa Caucuses, channeling my anger into public displays of sarcasm.
Just before walking out the door I grab the apartment key, put on my watch, a headband, a hat and gloves, and locate a small canister of mace (a story for another day). I lock the door behind me. Descending the five flights of stairs to the street, I notice that I’m still angry.
I’m so tired of dark runs. My body is tired and I’m running a marathon in less than two weeks. Last week’s training wasn’t awesome and I can feel winter’s depressive venom slowly seeping in to my mind.
I tell myself, Just a mile and a half. That’s it. Run mile and a half and then you’ll meet Christine.
My legs begin moving at the high-pitched *buhhdoop* sound of my watch starting. It’s a Pavlovian response, really. The watch starts and so do I.
The sidewalks and paths are unpredictably icy due to the recent daily cycle of thaw and freeze. I take short, cautious steps. Down the street, over the bridge, up the hill, down the hill, under the freeway and there’s Christine.
Our greeting is a weary, “hey.” It’s pregnant with mutual empathy, frustration and camaraderie. Another day, another Monday, another winter run. I feel understood. We talk about the weather, our weekends, my recent crappy workout and then a mile later, there’s Carrie.
Out and around the lake and back toward downtown. It’s dark this morning. Christine uses her phone as a flashlight, illuminating our next steps as we navigate the path’s icy patches. We talk about engineering exams and education and writing. Six miles in we stop. Carrie finishes her story about a recent doctor’s visit and we say goodbye to Christine.
Carrie and I turn back toward the lakes. It’s getting lighter as the sun rises behind us. We talk about training and our upcoming races. A mile and a half later I’m two and half miles from my apartment, and it’s time for me to turn around. Before parting ways, I admit to Carrie that I am tired and my mind feels fragile. I’m worried about the Olympic Trials and *sigh* winter is never going to end.
The sky is softly pink at the horizon. The muffled sun is coming up over the frozen lake, through the silhouettes of leafless trees.
Carrie gives me a hug and tells me it’s going to be OK. Her embrace is an odd reminder that I’ve been running with and talking to real, physical beings. On these light-less runs you interact only with a voice and the sound of footsteps. Her touch gives me energy. It gives me hope.
We wish each other “Happy Monday!” as we run off in opposite directions.
My legs feel pretty good. I take note and use this fact as assurance. You’re going to be OK.
It’s a damp morning and as the world around me lightens, I see that the trees and prairie grass lining the path are covered in a delicate layer of frost. It’s beautiful and enchanting. It brings me joy.
For the last two miles of my run I have understanding and hope and joy. That’s quite a bit.
I run up the hill, down the hill, over the bridge, through the park and climb back up the five flights of stairs to home – to begin my day.
For today, understanding, hope and joy are enough. Tomorrow, I don’t know. But today, these are sufficient.