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.
Advertisements

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

Running in darkness

My alarm gently prods me awake. It is time to rise. It is 4:30 in the morning. I reach for my glasses and glance toward window knowing it is still dark. 

The darkness comes with the coming of Fall and is upon us with apparent disregard for the enjoyment of the long days of summer. It too is inevitable. 

I groggily walk toward the basement and change into my running gear. Shorts…check. Running shoes…check. Running tights…check. Gloves…check. Garmin…check. Hat…check. Balaclava…check. Headlamp…check. Headlamp?! In an effort to run safely I don my headlamp. It is important to see and to be seen. As I run through intersections I am inevitably asked “Why don’t I run on a treadmill?” The dreaded treadmill or “dread mill” as I has become known to me will only be used when it is too cold, too icey to run outside.

I enjoy running in the dark. I enjoy the anonymity, the silence and the solitude. My running routes too take on a new flavor.

I step outside and it is eerily silent. It is a silence similar to that found early in the morning when the day has already begun to be lighted by the sun. The eeriness arrives with the darkness and does not seem to lift until the sun makes its first appearance of the day.

I take my first steps and head toward the corner. My route lit by the constant glow of the overhead streetlights. My headlamp is not yet needed. One quarter mile later and I begin a sweeping left hand turn. The darkness is now more evident as the overhanging trees obscure most of the light shed from above. In mid stride I reach up and click on my headlamp. The bright glow of the focused beam lighting the way and now my constant companion. There is a measure of security in this beam as I can now see and be seen. 

As I follow the curvature of the streets I find myself settling into a comfortable pace. There is a slight breeze which rustles the leaves. This breeze sounds like the string section if the philharmonic.  My breathing has become easy and I forget about the need to breathe. My breathe is as natural as my stride; it is simply there. Evident but forgotten. 

I turn right and run down an alley. It is darker than the surrounding streets. I feel as though I am doing something wrong. Running in the darkness when others are sound asleep. This thought quickly leaves me as I turn left and now run past a business which is humming with pre-dawn activity. I am not alone but still unaccompanied. My path takes me to a road normally busy with traffic. There are cars but not close to the numbers seen at other times of the day. I cross this street and head to the bike path on the opposing side. Cars race by me but I remain cloaked in darkness. If I switch off the headlamp I cannot be seen as I run just feet from the busy road. When streetlights allow this action to safely take place I will abide. 

Darkness envelopes me as does the accompanying solitude. I make sweeping left and right hand turns and find myself in the home stretch. An hour has flown by and to the East there is a faint light rising above the horizon. Daylight is approaching and with it the busyness of the day. The sound of traffic has increased

Namaste.

Follow the yellow brick road.

I love the change of seasons. In Western New York I have the luxury of experiencing the cold of Winter; the warmer, lengthening days of Spring; the humidity of summer and the cool, crispness of Fall. I live in an area bordered by Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the Erie Canal and Niagara River and I am just 6 short hours from the gorgeous Adirondack region. For someone who loves water, this is truly heaven.

When I run during Fall, I live for those days when the planets align; I can run later than 4:30 AM, the sun is shining and the leaves have begun to change and to fall, their crispness sounding beneath each footstep.

This past week I used several of the vacation days which had been accumulating. I rose, parted the blinds and smiled as the Falls’s warmth touched my face. I dressed for my run and headed down to a path which follows the Erie Canal. I smiled as I ran in part because I was running but I was also anticipating the view which was waiting for me.

Go out into this beautiful world and see it for all of it’s majesty. Experience and be mindful of the changing sights, sounds and smells.

Image

 

October morning

I rose early but tentatively. The darkness outside urging me to remain within the confines of the house. I sat on the edge of my bed eager to run but equally eager to remain beneath the warm blankets. I glanced between my pillow and the glowing face of the clock. Time was continuing to tick away. If I dressed now I would have time for four miles. If I returned to bed, sleep would more than likely elude me, thoughts racing around my head. I reminded myself how much better I feel when I follow my heart and run.

In the end, the desire to run won out as it usually does. 

The run, refreshing and rejuvenating helped my day get off to a solid start. I stopped by Fisherman’s park along the Niagara River, a stop I enjoy making because of the opportunities to enjoy the solid of the morning. A quick “Hi” to two passing runners; they were leaving and I was entering. The cooler Fall temperatures ensured I did not remain stationery too long. The muscles of my thighs beginning to tighten against the increasing breeze. I reached down with gloved hands and gave them a cursory rub. I leaned forward and ran the remainder of the distance home.

I reached the house and was greeted by Jack’s wagging tail. We walked around the house and retreated to the front porch where we both enjoyed the remaining silence of the morning. He sat to my left, sphinx like. His gaze remained transfixed on the squirrels criss-crossing the lawn gathering food for the communing winter. The remnants of a beautiful sunrise still kissed the leaves, remaining attached to their branches. The air has a noticeable twinge to it as we inch closer to Fall. The sounds of Fall also change as we creep closer to Winter. Fallen leaves, now dry and crumpled, crack beneath each footstep. A car passes and the wind created by this passing vehicle creates enough turbulence that it stirs the leaves making a sound rarely if ever heard during other times of the year. Rain, now more common drenches the soil. Puddles remained from the previous nights downpour. Cars create a splash as they disturb the still puddles on the side of the road. 

It is time to rise and shower, to meet the remainder of the day head on and to make it a beautiful day.

Today was a good day!

Namaste.

Image