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.


A Perfect Saturday Morning Treat?


There are so many foods that I once thought I hated and have since been proven wrong about.  Not having been exposed to a wide variety of foods when I was young, I just wrote off most unfamiliar items as ‘not for me’.  But, I’ve been happily proven wrong over the last few years.  The list of surprisingly enjoyable foods includes a great many vegetables (such as cauliflower – one of my absolute favorite veggies), but some have been much more common.

Such as jam.  Yes, jam.  Delicious, delicious jam.

For 31 years of my life, I thought I hated it.  I think the reality is that I’d never really had it before.  I’d had jelly (which as it turns out IS actually something that makes me shudder) and just assumed jelly and jam were one and the same.  Turns out this is not true AT ALL.  And hurrah for that!

I have been sampling jams and preserves of late and am finding them to be such a satisfying and delightful sweet treat – such a great addition to an english muffin or my much revered scones.  What is so great about jam, I think, is that the sweetness (if made well) is primarily natural tasting and awakening to the senses. The unnaturalness of so many jellies is a big part of what steered me away from jam for so long. The jelly that you find lining grocery store shelves and slapped on top of peanut butter is either too overloaded with sugar or too crammed full of artificial sweeteners.  That is not appealing to me at all, but jam is a different story.  Well made, all-natural jam has pushed itself boldly into my little food world.

I just bookmarked a strawberry-rhubarb jam recipe that I intend to make next week with fruit from my CSA box (I’ll tell you about that another time), but for now, for this past weekend, I had the delectable snack you see above.

This delightfully crumbly, slightly sweet biscuit was sliced in two and filled with a healthy dollop of strawberry jam.  This biscuit and this jam MADE my Saturday morning.  I ate it slowly, in small bites so that I could savor it’s tastiness.  I washed my bites down with two cups of coffee from my favorite roaster (I’m looking at you, Stumptown) while alternately reading a book and people watching from the café window seat that I was fortunate enough to snag on a busy weekend morning.

It is moments like that one that I love to start my weekends with.  Now that the weekend is over and Monday is here, I wanted to relive the memory of it and start my week off with that feeling of contentment, and maybe share even just a little bit of that contentment with you, too.

Happy Monday.  Now go eat some jam.