Anatomy of a Long Run

My alarm beeps at 5am on Saturday mornings, just like it has all week long, but instead of snoozing for another half an hour, I generally get right up.  On Saturdays, when so many others are sleeping in, resting from their work weeks, I pop out of bed and begin a well-practiced routine.

Saturdays are my long run days.  Some runners love long runs, others loathe them.  I pretty much consider them sacred.

I shuffle into my kitchen, where a glass of water and a Picky Bar await.  Snack consumed, I make my way back to my bathroom for teeth-brushing, contact-inserting, and, well, using the bathroom, of course.

Then . . . I wait.

Street Crossing - croppedNeeding to pass some time for my pre-run snack to settle a bit, I crawl back into bed, pop myself up against the wall, and crack open a book.  I avoid the news, the internet, or anything else that would shock me into the events of the real world before I’m ready.  30 minutes fly by and it’s time to change.

Running clothes are donned, shoes laced, cap pulled on over my messy hair and out I go.  Pausing only at the edge of the sidewalk to give my Garmin time to lock on to a trusty satellite, I am off.

Most of the year, it’s still dark.  The streets are calm and quiet.  I pass by dim storefronts and glance inside, peeking at the goods which line the shelves and wait to find a home.  My eyes wander across the lawns and porches of houses that tease me with glimpses of cozy kitchen tables and warm fireplaces.  Stop lights tell me “Don’t Walk”, but after glancing in all directions, I generally see that it’s all clear and run right on through.

Early risers creep their cars through the drive-in coffee windows and the sun starts to rise.  Depending on the time of year, it may be warm or frigid, dry or wet – all of it telling.  It is on these runs when I watch the seasons change.  I notice that what was once 30 minutes spent in darkness turns to 45 as the winter inches in.  I watch ducks usher in the summer mornings with their quacks and squirrels gather up their food stores as the warm weather fades.  I notice the very first of the leaves fall and the precocious flower buds of early spring.

My first loop – just over 8 miles – eases me into my day.  It’s a loop that I’ve run many times and is by now comfortably familiar to me.  I traverse it with gut recognition and instinct, providing me the time to fully wake up and warm up.  My mind drifts, not thinking per se, but just letting random thoughts pass through.  Some are meaningless and others seem genius at the time, though I can never remember them later.  Mostly, I am just completely present in my thoughts, in my body, and in my city.

By the time I sprint up the stairs to my apartment for a quick pit stop, I’m totally engaged.  I spend no more than five minutes inside.  Bathroom.  Water.  Snack.  Back out I go.

My second lap varies.  The distance and route bend to my particular goals and feelings on any given day.  By this time of the morning, though, the sun has risen and the day’s mood is making itself known.  Have the clear skies brought the other runners, leaves on wet road - croppedcyclists, and rowdy kids playing in the streets?  Or, are the grey skies rushing people from one shelter to another?  Either way, I run on with thoughts of breakfast starting to enter my mind.  My day’s task list begins to take over head space, too, and my body begins to yearn for coffee.

Regardless of the specifics of that morning’s second loop, I tend to run a path that leads me down some fun hills, spitting me out into one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in my town.  Those last few miles, momentum building and spirits lifting, are the best.  This is where the calmness of the morning turns into energy for the day.  It’s also where the negative split takes hold.  And, for those of you who are runners, too, you know how much we love a negative split.

Then, just like that, I’m home.  I kick my way through the parking lot, stop at the door, click stop on my trusty Garmin, and begin the rest of my day.  Shower.  Coffee.  Food.  Compression socks.


42 comments on “Anatomy of a Long Run

  1. Laura says:

    Beautiful post! Exactly what I needed to read before my long run this morning!

  2. Beautiful post. Generally how I spend my Saturday morning.

  3. msmidt says:

    I too look forward to my long run. Oftentimes, I get up earlier on the weekends than during the week.

  4. Alaina Maeve says:

    Beautiful – I yearn for the time when I will be familiar with my new neighborhood to have that innate sense about where I am, where to lift my foot a little higher because of sidewalk cracks, and to have the routine that I remember from across town. Thank you for sharing your Saturday morning with us.

    • Thank you, Alaina! It is a great, great feeling to have that familiarity. I know you’ll get there, but in the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying exploring the newness of it all. 🙂

  5. jfgirlie311 says:

    I love Saturday morning long runs! I do the same thing! Love that you spoke about being fully present in the experience…. So important!!!

  6. Christian says:

    Great post indeed! Still, I prefer the early evening run and don’t mind to get into darkness in winter times but for the long run I go too. I would never manage to start again after a stop at home so I would rather go for a route which brings me long way from home. But that’s just me. Loved to read your post.

  7. Nick says:

    My long runs are Sunday rather than Saturday…I give one day back to the week, for chores/errands/business; the other day belongs to me. Running in the morning -my own time, my own pace, my own space – cleanses me from the stress and aggravations of the week. After I return home, shower and make breakfast to share with my wife, who sleeps later and is usually up around the time I return. Then we spend the day together, and look forward to church in the evening…one of the things we looked for in a new church was a Sunday evening service…so we can come home, tend to the last details before another weeks begins.

    Great post, thank you.

  8. Taline says:

    Hi there. You write beautifully. Thank you for interacting with my blog and opening the door to my discovering yours.

  9. jayme marie says:

    I recently eased back into my running regimen today, and it was very nice to happen upon your post. It was very timely. Your words are making me even more excited about waking up on a Sunday to run again.

  10. Frank Muller says:

    Thanks, nicely written! I felt like I was along for your “long run” routine. I don’t like running, hurts my left knee and hip. But got back into biking 5 months ago. Been biking 80-100 miles a week! Does not seem to affect my knee and hip the same way. I’m almost 57 and feel I’m getting younger and stronger.

    • Yay for feeling younger and stronger! My boyfriend doesn’t like running, either, but is an avid cyclist. I think that there is a similar mentality shared by the athletes of both. I’m happy for you that you’re doing so well with it!

  11. You make me want to like long runs.

  12. pauldburton says:

    Very brave to stop T home between laps. If I stopped I probably wouldn’t get back out the door…

    • Ha! I hear that from a few people, but it works for me. I hate carrying a bunch of stuff with me, so it allows me to go long without really taking anything at all. I know I’ll stop back by to get what I need to refuel and hydrate (without having to find water fountains – which I do, too).

  13. Eddy Gilmore says:

    Looks like Abbey Road above. I’m still searching the pic for Beatles….
    Nice post…

  14. Kathleen says:

    I love this. You’ve captured the essence of the long run so well!

  15. Joanne says:

    I felt like I was running with you! I haven’t done a real long run since the marathon in November but reading this made me want to get back out there and start training for something!

  16. There’s something truly magical about running through the streets before most people have even opened their eyes for the day. I just love being able to watch the world slowly wake up as I run along. Your words capture those early morning feelings perfectly.

  17. Long runs are the best part of the week! And I love being up when no one else is…

  18. Very inspiring! Now I feel so lazy…. hahaha That’s ok though! I love the inspiration! Great post!

  19. Wow, this is such a beautifully written post. I love how you took us on your long run journey with you. My favorite part is how the run allows you to watch the seasons change. I too am up early on Saturday mornings, to spin or run, and enjoy that peacefulness and stillness of being one of few souls awake at that time of day. Love this post!

  20. I felt a yearning inside as I read this — have been off the running routine for awhile now, in the vortex of life juggling work, teenagers activities, and finding time for friends, etc. As the dogs age, short runs are best and I hope to start those up again at least as life settles down in the spring (and we move from nordic ski season to track! — for now, getting some nordic skiing in has an often-peaceful rhythm of its own). Lovely post.

    • Thank you, Kat! I know a little bit about those vortexes! It’s nice that you’ve been able to find a rhythm and peace with another activity and I do hope you’re able to reconnect with running when the time is right. Good luck!

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