The new morning run

Beep-beep-beep! The vexatious blare of my alarm resonated in my quiet bedroom. The indiglo on the clock indicated that it was indeed 5:40 am.

I sprang out of bed and strapped on my duck shoes (the special boots I had been instructed to wear at all times to prevent my toes from flexing and further fracture) before waddling to the bathroom. Moving quickly helped me to wake up faster. But secretly I loved early mornings. I didn’t respond to mornings the way most teenagers did. I enjoyed them.

Early runs before school were often the highlight of my day. I craved the peaceful serenity and solitude. It gave me time to relax and ponder. It gave me time, as the McDonald’s commercial for their line of Frappes states. It also allowed me to train for cross-country as well as attend mandatory volleyball practice.

But morning runs were no longer an option. Instead of throwing on my usual track shorts and sweat-resistant shirt, I clamored awkwardly into a bathing suit. Morning swims would now start my day.

After a breakfast of an English muffin and coffee, I drove stealthily up my driveway to my neighbors’ pool. It was an above-ground Dough Boy about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide, but hey, it was a pool. I’m telling you, if you want to swim all summer long and not pay a dime, find a neighbor with a pool. They keep it up, and you swim all you want. I had always appreciated this pool, but now I was indebted to it.

The sun was barely showing its face above the tree line. I shivered slightly in the cool morning as I strapped on my Speedo goggles and took the first plunge. It was both invigorating and tranquilizing. The water caressed my body and both soothed and urged it to move. I turned carefully and pushed off cautiously with a frog kick at the end of the pool and stroked back. Back and forth, back and forth.

I’d swum laps many times before, but always as a relaxing way to supplement my other activities. Now it was my activity. Welcome to the new morning run.

Just get moving

“You are never too old, too fat, or too slow to start running.”

I read this in a special beginner’s guide issue of “Runner’s World.” It’s a great statement on so many levels. Not only is it true for running, but it is also touches on a much broader subject that explores life as a whole.

The statement isn’t just an encouragement for lazy, out of shape, couch potatoes to change their ways and get healthy. It’s a metaphor for a lifestyle transformation. We all screw up. Daily. Perhaps hourly. Sometimes they’re just simple mistakes.

We put on two different socks. We spill hot coffee on our pants. It’s as innocent as getting up on the wrong side of the bed. Other times we screw up pretty badly with much more severe consequences.

We run a red light. We fail a test. We lose a game. All of these actions, accidental or not, result in punishment. Whether it’s a hefty fine or extra suicides, we pay the price for our imprudent deeds. Sometimes we feel so disheartened by our foolish faults that we don’t dare to go at it again.

We fall off the horse and let it kick us until we crawl away, limping and bleeding. Then we never go near it again for fear of the same outcome. Eventually we move on. However, it still lingers in the backs of our minds, teasing us. Reminding us in painfully pleasurable memories of what we once loved. It’s a pretty darn miserable way to live.

You’ve got to dig deep within your soul and yank out some courage, strength, and a little bit of blind faith. It won’t come easily, but with a little prodding and bribing, that determination will poke its feisty little head out.

When football players get knocked down, they sure as heck don’t stay down. Similarly, when life is a 250-pound, 6-foot-4 linebacker and knocks the wind clean out of you, you get back up and go hard. Every time. Now you’re prepared. You know what to expect. But it’s all new.

A fresh start. And everyone deserves one. It’s never too late to get one, either. So whether you’re a fit and lean, 6-minute miler or a lethargic sloth lucky to make it a mile, you’re never too old, too fat., or too slow to start anew. Or start at all.

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