Running with friends, while training for marathons and ultra marathons.
The moments before my alarm clock goes off offers up some of the best periods of sleep I have ever experienced. At other instantaneous these final minutes find me awake staring at the ceiling wondering about the adventures of the day.
The sleep from a long nights rest scratches the tender skin around my eyes as I attempt to clear the slumber for the beginning of my day. Slowly the morning comes into focus as my eyes catch the dim morning light allowing the familiar landscape of my room to come into focus. My ears collect the repetitive sounds of rain beating on the window panes. My skin feels the coolness of a chilly spring morning. Once again I find myself starting to come awake before the man-made alarm goes off.
In the stillness of a new day, stuck somewhere between beginning fully awake or savoring a few more moments of restless sleep. Trapped between my desires to get my day underway, and wanting to be still I wonder if I really need to be part of the day’s motions. Living between the two different worlds although inviting will not aid me in getting ready for my morning run. Ensnared in no man’s land the inaction of stillness will not transport me closer to my mileage goals and will only erode away any commitment to arriving on time to join my friends for today’s run. Now more awake than slumbering it takes a few moments to remember what the morning has in store. Stretched out before me awaits a day on trails laden with dirt, rocks and mud after the night’s rain. The day will be inclined with hills, scrambling over rocks and roots and a day full of long miles shared with a few of my like minded friends.
Gathering my full wits, I remember how hard it had been to find a reliable group of friends I could run with. Within the group, there were members I could count on and others who would find reasons not to run other than under the best conditions. Today was one of those days. Within my group was one pair of friends who matched my commitment, my resolve and my dedication to run no matter the adversaries. This pair of kindred souls would run no matter the weather, the conditions of the trails and without regard to the length of our outing. This particular twosome knows me better than I know myself. They know my weakness, the limitations of my failed stride and the uncertainties of my questionable mental strength yet these running comrades always obtained my best performance.
Then almost unexpectedly, although almost by second nature I knew it was coming, the sound of my alarm clock rockets me into action. I reach for the horizontal bar that will silence the blaring sound that tears at my slumbering soul. My feet hit the cold wood floors and instantly with the first movement of the day, my body reminds me of the battle wounds that 17 years of running have left on me. My bones creep and my back hurts from a night on an ill fitting mattress. Once standing erect my knees call attention to the 20,000 miles I have run over my running career. Moving slowly across the floor my ankles sing a painful song of remembrance the results of the hill workout just days before. With all the aches and pains thoughts of rolling back into bed tempts me but knowing my friends will be waiting, wondering where I am and why I did not show up for our agreed upon run keeps me focused on my commitment to them and the miles in my training plan. The aches and pains of years of running come up short on diverting me from today’s run.
The commitment of our run motivates me to splash some ice cold water on my face, brush my teeth and get my personal business in order. Surprisingly the sensation of the tap water contacting my skin brings me back to life and more committed to the actions of the day. Staring into the mirror I no longer see the face of a gruesome zombie awaken from a long season of slumber now in the reflection I see the runner, the amateur athlete who has a full race season in front of them.
Glancing at my watch I notice the time is drawing near to join up with my friends. As I pull on a wrinkled shirt and my favorite socks from my top dresser drawer and grab an old pair of weathered black shorts from the clean clothes basket I begin to feel more like myself. It takes only moments to finish dressing and grab a few bites to eat in between filling water bottles and stashing fuel gels into my running vest. Slowly with fresh calories and liquids in my veins my faithfulness to the run now has a solid hold over me. The long run is a different experience without seasoned friends to share the adventure with. A running friend can make the miles go by faster, friends can distract you from the solitude of the lonely trails and a group can make the miles more comfortable. A good friend can change the complexion of any morning.
As the moments tick away I’m ever more aware of the agreed upon meeting time, and the location when we will join up and begin our day together. Surviving the call of the warm and inviting bed I am more determined to be on time and not on the side of the conversation that ends with “I’m not going to be able to make it today.” I have felt that sting many times but today am comfortable that my friends will be there waiting to run.
Breaking the silence, my cell phone vibrates on the granite counter top next to my keys, a random water bottle, my GPS watch and a half empty cup of coffee. Alerted to an incoming message my hand reaches for the high tech plastic communicator that keeps me in touch with the world. For a moment I wonder is this an alert to world news, an email notice or the unthinkable at this early morning hour? In the dimly lit room, it takes my eyes a few seconds to collect enough light to be able to see the message and focus on the words appearing on the screen. The world will continue to spin but the message is simple and to the point.
“I’m sorry…something came up I won’t be able to run with you this morning.”
Placing the phone back on the counter I sit down slightly dejected, unmotivated, somber and unfocused. For a second I wonder what my next move should be. Staring at the cold floor in front of me I’m having a hard time coming up with plan B, the days run seems in jeopardy. Out of the stillness, the approaching early morning rays of sunshine breaks through the partially opened curtains. The morning light reminds me of the new day and all it’s potential. The welcomed beam of light enters my room illuminating a path which returns me to my original course of action. Falling gracefully the morning light ends its journey across my room resting on a pair of well seasoned running shoes sitting quietly under a bench, next to an old rug, and adjacent to the front door.
This simple message reminds me that my true friends, the friends that are always ready, always willing, and always available are waiting for me.