I woke with my alarm this morning. Five AM. One of my favorite times of the day. I love and live for the solitude that this time of day brings.

I have been waiting for this day for some time. With it came some fear. I could taste it like bile in the back of my throat. you know that feeling you get when you think you might throw up. I wondered if history would repeat itself. Regardless, I got my ass out of bed and accepted the challenge before me.

running

I also have a healthy level of denial about my age. I’ll be 54 on August 28th. I am thankful that I don’t feel my age and have to be reminded from time to time of my age. The reminder comes in the form of aches and pains from over doing it that I didn’t have at half my age. It’s a good reminder because it keeps from pushing farther than my body is capable and thus avoiding injury. As a result of the injury, I hadn’t run since April 6th. That’s a lie. I hadn’t run since July 15th of 2016. The original pain started the day before yet I pushed through it. Instead of stopping and taking a week off, I pushed through it and returned for more the next day. When I returned home after completing a 10-miler on the 15th, I sat on my porch feeling pretty happy there was no pain. Then I got up and heard a pop in my knee. The pop was followed by pain and a tremendously difficult time even bearing weight let alone walking.

It serves me right. I had been pushing myself through runs. the thought of getting up to run was even painful although this pain being emotional in nature was easier to deny. As time passed the pain also lessened. I thought I was healing and after repeated attempts to return to running even short distances, pain followed.

I sucked it up and scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The diagnosis was a torn meniscus. I pushed for surgery because his original treatment plan was unacceptable. I was not going to stop running. I was not ready to stop running. Surgery followed as did my first attempt, foolishly at running within one month.

path

One year has passed since I ran any distance with the exception of after my grandson or up a flight of stairs. I ran or rather walk/ran this morning. To my surprise, there was no pain. Even better, the love that I had and had lost had also returned. it feels good to be on the path to recovery.

Namaste

It’s time for a change

With hands clasped together in prayer, I greet you on this beautiful day.

A lot has been intentionally crossing my mind as of late.  As winter comes to an end and spring approaches, I have noticed the depression which I have worked so hard to manage during the long winter months has begun to lift. Medication remains a constant but there is also a renewed outlook which has buoyed my determination to continue the fight. Medication has been helpful as has my journal writing. Introspection has returned.

Since the beginning of 2015, I have twice changed employment. The first change found me looking for a challenge and the second was out of necessity for my physical and emotional health and well-being. The first change resulted in a depression which I found myself denying, even after I had left. I found myself in the throes of burnout and experiencing anhedonia-like I cannot recall. I forced myself to run. Running is normally a part of my day. For me, there is nothing better than rising at 4AM and getting in 7-10 miles. My love, my desire to run let alone wake at what some might call “that ungodly hour” had left.

Denial is a wonderful thing, or so we allow ourselves to believe. During the period of forced running, I felt a pain in my right knee. As the pain dissipated within a mile, I continued to run. One particularly depressing day, I completed a run, sat on my porch to rest in the solitude of this early hour and watch the sunrise. I rose, did nothing in particular with respect to movement and felt and heard a pop in my knee. Running without pain was now completely out of the question.

It has been in excess of 250 days since I last took a run.

As I procrastinated, my knee began to feel better. Pain was a thing of the past. A little over a month ago I went for a 3-mile run and was excited as there was no return of pain…until several hours later. The injury remained and it was time to seek a more in-depth intervention other than playing the wait and see game.

I finally met with an orthopedic surgeon, completed an MRI and ultimately was informed the diagnosis was a “complex tear of the meniscus.” The doctor was passive in his attempts to turn me away from a surgical intervention. He also cited my progressing age as a factor to “slow down and find another form of exercise.” I have other forms of exercise but none provide me with the solace that trail running does. There is something magical at rising at 4AM before everyone with sense rises for the day, lacing on a pair of running shoes, filling a water bottle and simply hitting the road. I time many of my runs to be in certain places at certain times so I can catch the rise of the sun.  The run is my therapy while the sunrise is simply a bonus. When I see the sunrise, I think of my maternal grandmother who’s presence embodied all that a beautiful sunrise could be.

There have been many lessons learned over those last two years. I have listened. I hold no remorse for the amount of time which it has taken me to move forward for this is where many of the lessons lie.

I photograph, write and post the results to better understand the journey I’m on — both the literal ones where the Vespa scooter moves through the world and those trickier trips where my mind conspires to understand what the hell is happening to me.  In either case, I’m a spokesman for myself and don’t pretend to offer much to anyone else.

Publishing to my blog as of the last couple of years has been terribly inconsistent. I felt as though a lot of the things about which I have wanted to write did not fit “The Dharmata” very well. I felt as though I had become pigeonholed and subsequently stale. I felt this change needed to take place some time ago and for any number of poor reasons, I never followed through with the change.

I have changed the name of my blog address to thebeardedrunner.net. This is a change GoDaddy tells me is in effect immediately. I hope you continue to follow me on this new path. I plan on writing more regularly about depression, running, the importance of activity in our lives and whatever else come to mind.

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.