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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Wee Hours

There's something magical between 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning.

As my long runs get longer, the days on which I run them, tragically, stay the same length. Since I do not want to spend my entire morning running, I get up earlier than usual to complete the workout. With a run of 17 miles today, I knew it could easily last over 2 and 1/2 hours, and I was hoping to have it completed around 8:00. This meant a 5:00 wake-up. I set two alarms, one for 5 and one for 6, just in case I decided that 5 was to early.

Fortunately, I was wide awake the moment my alarm went off (the first time), and I suited up. Setting everything out the night before not only ensures I'll have everything ready, but it expedites the process of getting out the door without adding to the stress of the morning. I ate a few crackers for some last minute glycogen, and hit the road.

It's hard to explain, but there is a sense, at that hour, that the night is ending and the day is beginning at the same time. I was amazed at the number of people who were out walking around before dawn. There were far more than last week, though this might have had more to do with last week's impending thunderstorm. I watched those I passed, and tried to imagine where they were going. Some appeared to be heading to work. Others were clearly just getting home. Still more looked like they had nowhere to be at all, and had chosen their particular spot for no other reason than the fact that it was where they stopped.

And even with the unexpected amount of humanity around, I found myself cutting through the darkness with an odd sense of solitude. Not loneliness, to be sure, but solitude. This strong feeling that I was in control of my surroundings, that this was my city. If you keep your head up and watch, you slowly see the world come to life. Surrounded by darkness, you feel alone in the relative quiet. Then, after a couple hours, you come out from under a clump of trees to see that the sky has lightened while you were in the shadows. The first sandwich board signs are set outside as the parking lots slowly start to fill.

You slowly become aware of the sounds of birds as they wake up, hours after you did. Take that, birds.

Gradually, your neighbors start to acknowledge your presence. You might even get a good morning or two, depending on the neighborhood you run. And, if you've been smart enough to start your run slowly and haven't pushed yourself too hard too early, you might just suddenly realize that you've only got four miles left and you still feel great. Maybe you'll even push the last mile a little harder, simply because you can.

In the space between good night and good morning, there is more than sleep. There is also possibility. There is time. There is at least one animal to scare the crap out of you.

And sometimes, there is magic.

Saturday's Run:
42 Degrees / Clear, light wind
17.5 Miles

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