Spring + Gratitude

The seasons are changing.

I know this not just because of the date on the calendar. There is a change in the air. The smells are different. Birds are singing and in the east, the sun is beginning, at this early hour to peek above the horizon. The air also has lost the bite which has kept most of us indoors for the past few months.

I stepped outside for my run this morning feeling hopeful as a new week begins. A quick glance toward the heavens and I am humbled and reminded as I look at the stars which are visible. I am reminded that I am but a speck in this vast universe.

I think, a lot during my runs. I enjoy running because of the usual escape from deep thought which is offered by running. Often I cannot recall what I have thought as these thoughts cascade and become lost like a drop of water breaching the crest of Niagara Falls.

As I run down darkened streets, the only visible light is coming from my headlamp. It lights a path directly in front of me allowing my immediate universe to remain even smaller. I think about the humility which I feel and for which I am grateful. I thought about the recent goings on in our country and find myself dismayed. Dismayed that we can’t even treat each other with the smallest speck of respect yet we hope by continuing to confront each other, often with violence on very polarized fronts we will unite and achieve our desired goals.

sunrise

Instead, I think of the symptoms of Tinnitus which have been bothering me with more frequency and intensity over the past couple of weeks. The ringing had been much improved for reasons neither I nor the doctors understand. I think I had lost a small amount of gratitude for the life which I have. These last several days when the ringing in my ears has been difficult to ignore, I have reminded of the importance of gratitude. Visiting my mom and dad last night and seeing his inability to walk reminds me that there are bigger problems to manage and I am a lucky individual.

Advertisements

Why don’t you look where you’re driving?!

This is a Public Service Announcement from the Bearded Runner: When you drive, just DRIVE! stop fiddling with your radio or whatever the hell it is that you do when you drive, and just DRIVE!!!

Thank you!

I rise early in the morning, 5AM on most days to tie on my running shoes and start my day with some semblance of balance.

I look forward to my morning run and the solitude which I am allowed

Every year there are a gagillion websites (I’m probably being conservative with this number) that remind the runner of the dangers of running when it’s dark.

I run with a headlamp, blinking light on the back of my head and more reflective gear than I can fit anywhere on my body. I light up like a Christmas tree when headlights hit me. Yes, I said “Christmas tree.” There’s no such thing as a “holiday tree” so if you’re looking for any type of political correctness, stop reading and find another website!

Yet there’s always at least one driver who comes pretty damn close to me. I’m pretty sure that many drivers enjoy playing chicken with me when they see me out for a run. I think they arrive wherever they have decided to go and gather around the water cooler to joke about how close they’ve come to hitting me. When a driver gets that close to me, I enjoy pointing my Petzl light, set to the brightest setting directly into the eyes of the offending driver. If you’re especially lucky, I’ll flip you off and throw a couple of choice words your way to help brighten your day.

I’ve added a little video about “Running in the Dark”

There is no way the driver of the car this morning didn’t see me with the accouterment of reflective gear I was wearing. I’m just saying…put your phone down, stop fiddling with your radio or whatever the hell it is that you do when you drive, and just DRIVE!!!

The Grayness of the Day

I woke up this morning to 6″ of fresh snow. This was quite a change from the bare grass which was uncovered after the previous snow had melted. The temperatures, more seasonable this morning approached 16 degrees. The bitter cold stinging my face. I pull the face mask up a little bit higher and lean forward as I make my way through the newly fallen snow. My thoughts drift to the previous days run when the pavement was dry, snow was absent from the landscape and the temperature was 40-degrees, a far cry from the temperatures this morning.

There are times during every winter where I seem to drift like the snow through the gray of winter. There is little desire to run and often traveling to work to listen to the problems of others is also a struggle. I move slowly through the morning envious of those individuals in warmer climates who are not shoveling snow. There is an argument in my brain, so I rise, dress and go for a run or do I stay in bed for another hour? My inner groundhog insists there are 6-more weeks of winter. It is often the run which wins as I remind myself how I feel when I have laced up the running shoes, turned on the headlamp and head out the door.

winter running

My spirit needs light. It is this light for which I long and for which my spirit longs. I exit my house and make my way to the car for the drive to the office. The sky, a blanket of gray which does not seem to go away and which seems endless as it stretches the length of the horizon.

The end of the day arrives. I exit my office and am happy the sun when we see it in this hemisphere, makes itself present. I know longer days are coming and with it increasing warmth and more sun

Today was a good day.

With hands clasped together, I wish you a good evening.
I slept well last night despite retiring with what felt like the symptoms of a cold. I don’t believe there has been an increase in stress as much as there has been the perception that stress has increased.
I  rose to go for a run lamenting the darkness which will accompany each and every run through Spring. This easily falls into the category of “it is what it is.” I changed up my route and quickly found the solitude which I seek during most runs. Thoughts, as they usually do, drifted in and out of my mind. My ability to see things more clearly during a run is one of those things which keeps me running. The symptoms of a cold did not make an appearance during my morning run nor did they make an appearance toward the end of the day.
As I ran along the Niagara River I looked over my shoulder and began to see the pink of the rising sun as it made its way above the horizon. A brief stop at Fisherman’s Park to snap a few photos, the obligatory selfie and then to bask for a few more minutes in the solitude of the morning. As I resumed my run it became clear there would no longer be a need for my trusty Petzl headlamp. Sunday is one of the few days which I can run late enough that I can see the sunrise. That is until the full onslaught of what can be a depressing winter is once again upon us and the sun will often not grace us with its presence for weeks at a time. I have already decided my trusty friend Lexapro will once again accompany me through these dark times. I ended my relationship with my friend last winter and by the time I realized depression had taken his place, it was too late. I was forced to muddle through what remained of the winter months and the struggle that is Spring.
Spring for me can also be a struggle. The calendar reminds us that warmer weather and longer days are near. Often Mother Nature plays a cruel joke on us and reminds us of our insignificance by allowing the accumulated snow to melt and then to reintroduce us to that form of precipitation that, by that time of year has grown old. I found myself badgering my wife about whether or not she has purchased plane tickets so I can quickly fly to Florida and renew my relationship with the sun and all it has to offer me.
The Buffalo Bills played today which is a topic of which I have little to no interest in writing. The weather, 65-degrees, sunny with a consistently stiff wind helped make my decision to sit outside and write this essay. As I complete this essay, I watch the sun as it creeps lower in the sky. This is noticeable too by the increasingly colder hint in the wind. The shorts I am wearing will soon become a mode of dress inappropriate for outside activities. I caught myself thinking about this question as I ran believing If I am lucky I will have at least 1-2 additional weeks where I can run outdoors in shorts.
My daughter, son-in-law and grandson just arrived for dinner. It is time to go.
Namaste.

A Beautiful Moment

With palms together,

I wish you all a Good Evening.

My normal wake time during the week is 4:00 AM. Today it was 3:30 AM. I woke without the aid of my alarm. It is this type of wakefulness which reminds me I am rested.

Like every other morning, I rise, sometimes reluctantly and prepare for a run. This morning with preparations complete, I opened the rear door of the house, stepped outside and onto the back porch. I triggered the motion sensor light and as every other morning, my eyes gazed the open lot behind my house; my field of vision limited to the distance the light is thrown through the darkness.

On this morning my eyes caught movement. I leaned forward and strained to see into the darkness where my eyes detected movement. My first thought was a skunk. We know all too well of their stealthy presence. My eyes scanned the darkness and back to the light. This time my eyes began to note a familiar shape; the shape of a fawn. My eyes continued to scan and they made out the form of a second fawn and then a doe.

I reached through the open entrance and snuffed the light. I sat down on the porch and for several minutes watched with curiosity and gratitude as the three enjoyed a breakfast of greens.

Glancing at my watch I knew the time had come to begin my run. I rose, started the timer on my watch and silently ran down the street; my path illuminated only by the torch affixed to a band around my head.

When I run, different thoughts flow through my head. They can be simple and complex; few and racing. This gentle morning I was grateful they were few. They were of solitude. They were of the silence through which I ran. They were of the peace which I felt when I watched the deer.

I hope you enjoyed your day and pleasant thoughts accompanied you throughout the day.

Namaste

The Blizzard of 2014

I woke this morning to the sound of a snowplow at the apartment complex across the street from my home. After peering through the slats of the blinds and glancing at the clock, I decided to head back to bed. The temperature with the wind chill continued to hover in the below-zero teens. I decided, with my best interest in mind to return to bed. Another day escaped without a run. The thought of hiking to the gym and running for an hour on the treadmill was a thought which lasted as long as the blink of an eye.

 
I woke an hour later, grabbed my Kindle and read for an hour until Jack yawned, stretched, rose on the bed and walked toward me where he sat down. He stared at me with that questioning look asking, “Why are you still in bed? I need to go outside and I’m hungry.” The morning for me, even after a run is the time of “a thousand little things to do.” Walk the dog. Feed the dog. Take out the garbage. Take out the recycling. Shovel the driveway. Brush off the cars. Start the cars. Start the Vespa. I was happy I decided to go for the new battery last night. Another day/night of consistently below freezing temperatures would have taken it’s toll and possibly left me stranded. Jack and I returned from his walk in the brisk temperatures. As he ages I realize his step is more tentative. He doesn’t like the cold. As I grow older I realize I have learned how to tolerate the cold. When you live in the Northeast, it is what it is. If you don’t learn to manage it, you had better move to a warmer climate.
 
Jack and I both ate our breakfasts. He appears famished as he ravenously gulps his food and stands by my side as I cook eggs hoping something might fall. Of course it does  but not on purpose. I read again as I eat my eyes returning to the top of the page and again make eye contact with Jack. It seems as though he knows just where to sit. When he realizes I have made eye contact with him he retreats and moves to my side. Perhaps the thought is if he makes himself more well known, I might give in and feed him again. Or perhaps his thought is simply that I did not see him from his previous vantage point.
 
After a shower and getting dressed for work I make another pot of coffee, this one for work. I depress the plunger on the French Press the light colored oils rise to the top. The smell forces me to close my eyes and drink it in. Smiling, I wait for the coffee to brew before storing it in my thermos for the ride to the office.
Image
 
I arrived ready to see my first patient to find the first three had canceled leaving my schedule empty until 3:00 PM. I contact other patients on my call back list but none are willing to venture out in the cold and wait at a bus stop to see me for counseling. Again, it is what it is. Another thing over which I have little control.
 
As I sit at my desk, Peter Gabriel emanating from the iPod speaker on my desk, I read on-line that the blizzard warning has been lifted. When I left my home for the drive to the office, the sun was brilliantly shining and the main roads were clear. Temperatures are forecast for a high of 17 which means a wind-chill around zero. Definitely comfortable enough to resume running. The roads should be relatively clear by tomorrow morning and when I run at 4:30 AM, relatively safe from traffic. Gatorade is already mixed and warm running clothing is already laid out. Batteries for the headlamp are already charged and I’m ready to hit the roads again when the weather cooperates.
 
Namaste

In Praise of Running in the Dark

I am usually an early-bird runner. I (very grudgingly and groggily) get up and pound out a run as the sun rises so I don’t have to worry about fitting it for the rest of the day. But there are times when, um, my alarm “malfunctions” or my schedule just doesn’t allow for five miles at 5:30 a.m. When that happens, I used to just take a raincheck for the following day.

But recently, I ran nearly nine miles at 12:30 a.m. in a Ragnar Relay, and was reminded of how simultaneously peaceful and stimulating running at night can be. The motion is familiar, but everything else feels fundamentally different—even if I’m running my most tried-and-true route.

As I head out into the dark, my senses go into overdrive. It’s not just my eyes leading the way anymore. I smell things—hopefully scents like pine needles or a lasagna baking in my neighbor’s oven—more intensely. Even on busy streets, my ears rotate between three sounds: the in-and-out of my breath, the rhythm of my feet, and an overwhelming, lovely slice of quiet. I run through pockets of warm and cold air, which I rarely notice when I’m checking my GPS multiple times a mile. My eyes adjust more easily to the dark blanket than I would anticipate when I’m debating a run in the warmth of my kitchen, and, once I’ve been out there for a few minutes, the blackness turns to shades of gray. (I promise, it always seems darker from the inside than when you’re actually in it.)

Most of all, the darkness allows me to tune in, not out. It releases me of most expectations, and I’m free to just experience the run, step by step. Chasing the spotlight from my headlamp forces me to be exactly present, a perspective that can be so difficult to attain when running in daylight. Calculating remaining mileage or fixating on pace feels almost superficial. Instead, I naturally concentrate on the cool air on my skin, the stars—or if I’m lucky, the full moon—above, and the sensation that I’m supremely, deliciously alive.

When the sun goes down, good things can happen. But bad things can too, unfortunately, so here are a few nighttime running safety tips:

—Light yourself with a headlamp, reflective apparel, blinking lights, and hits of reflectivity on your clothes from a range of angles and positions: front, back, sides, upper body, lower body. Cars won’t be expecting you, so alert them brightly and in multiple ways of your presence.

—Reflective hits are easiest seen on moving parts like your arms, hands, legs and feet. Saucony’s line of Men’s hats & gloves and Women’s hats & gloves is built with reflectivity in mind.

—It’s a cliché for a reason: there is safety in numbers. Recruit a buddy—either the two- or four-legged type—to run with you.

—Go on the defense: run against traffic, behind cars at intersections, and avoid areas that might not be super safe.

—Tell or text somebody your route, and when you expect to be back.

—Carry your phone, and if you must listen to music, keep the volume low and use only one earbud.

—Pay careful attention to footing. Curbs and cracks can be harder to navigate at night; slow down if need be.

Next time you’re bemoaning the fact that your crazy day didn’t allow you to squeeze in your planned lunchtime session, don’t settle onto the couch and into a bag of chips for the night. Gear up and head out; I promise, a run like no other awaits.

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

DIMITY MCDOWELL

Contributor Dimity McDowell Davis is the co-founder of Another Mother Runner, and the coauthor of Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity and Train Like a Mother: How to Cross Any Finish Line and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. (Sarah Bowen Shea is her partner in mother running crime.) Cross paths withAnother Mother Runner on Twitter, on Facebook or on their weekly podcasts on iTunes.

Twitter @dimityontherunDimity’s Website