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A hymn to the early morning run

22 August 2021

August in England. High summer, which this year means 19 degrees and grey skies at noon. Except for the days I wear jeans and a coat, when the sun comes out and it’s suddenly boiling. Until I put my shorts back on and it starts to rain.

When the outside world is room temperature, it’s unsettling. I can’t open a window to let the air in, it’s already there. Everything feels the same, inside and out. The strangest thing about this summer is that I could go for a run at any time of the day and it wouldn’t ever be too hot or uncomfortable or sticky; it would just be okay. Acceptable. Fine.

I should be using this opportunity to run interval sessions in my lunch break, and have a lie in instead of getting up at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. Obviously, I’m not doing this. Not (just) because I hate intervals, but because running at lunchtime sucks. I have already showered. I don’t want to get changed again. The paths will be busy; there will be people around and I might have to say hello to them. But most of all, I’m too hungry to run.

Lunchtime is for lunch. And eating lunch is very important to me, but that’s not the reason I’m not running at lunchtime. I have become an early morning runner. These days, more than half of my runs begin before 6am.

5:45am, 5:11am, 5:37am.

When my daughter was a baby, starting the day at times like these was pure torture. We used to say, “if it starts with a five, it’s a fail”. Now I’m choosing it.

Before corona, I ran at 5am because I had to. I needed to leave the house to catch my London train before 7am, and sharing parenting and bedtimes meant that mornings were the only option. But now we have an 8 year old who can put herself to bed and we both work from home. I no longer have to get up early to run, I just want to.

How did I get here?

It started in the first lockdown. Running early meant being alone on the trails and that felt safe. The spring and summer of 2020 were beautiful and that brought joy. Misty mornings, damp blossoms, and spider webs in the grass. In Autumn, encroaching darkness pushed me onto the roads but I didn’t feel sad. I welcomed the quiet hum of the streetlights and the changing of traffic signals on an empty street. The setting moon and the rising sun. Pouring rain. Christmas lights.

Running in the early morning is like a gift every day. There is always something fleeting to see, and I might be the only one to notice it. This morning the sun broke over a group of cows in a misty field after the rain, and I nearly tripped over a dead mole on the side of the road, velvety and perfect.

By the end of my run it was overcast and dull again. Room temperature. Grey.

One Comment leave one →
  1. africker permalink
    22 August 2021 3:23 pm

    For a long time a lot of my running was started at 6am to fit before the tube / family life. Lately a new job for my partner means I have been out before then regularly with her 5ish alarm call. With corona I could have moved later but I just ended up running for longer.

    I joined a running club between lock downs and the one evening a week is as much as I can fit in that slot and I just cannot bring myself to start later in the morning just for the benefit of company.

    Looking forward to the cooler mornings coming back

    So much in agreement with this post!

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