The cool air envelopes me as I step outside at six in the morning. It is dark and I begin my run to work. The distanced street lights on Hastings give off just enough light so I could see where I am going. The headlights of the occasional oncoming car briefly kill what little vision I have. Normally I run to work on Wednesdays. Here's where the day can make a difference for me. Thursday is trash day in my area. Although I'm blinded by some oncoming headlights I am fortunate enough to notice a dark shape about two steps in front of me. I quickly sidestep a 50-gallon trash container and the oncoming car passes by.
"Check it out. On my way to work I saw this guy running down the sidewalk and he ran right into a trash can. He didn't even slow down and BAM! It was crazy."
No, that story was not being told today. I am careful to dodge the rest of the trash containers waiting to be relieved of their contents. Making my way to Highway 395, I wait for the crossing signal and then head south on brand new sidewalks lining the roadway towards town. I scamper up the hill and approach the North Division Bike Shop. The drive-up coffee shop sharing the parking lot is busy and I avoid a car whose driver is leaving with her fresh cup of wake up juice. I briefly wonder if an Italian number specified the size or if she just ordered a large.
A sign outside the bike shop says summer clothing is on sale, a reminder of the changing season. I press on and turn west on Hawthorne towards Whitworth University. South again on Whitworth Drive and I'm starting to rid myself of the morning chill. I checked the weather online earlier and the temperature was listed as 52 degrees. It must be true if it's on the Internet. I often forget the temp is lower north of town. This morning I'm wearing just a shirt, shorts and a pair of Vibrams. A small backpack holds a water bottle and my personal effects.
Whitworth Drive connects to Wall, a road I stay on for the next 3-1/2 miles. The 124 North Express buses pass by frequently. The northbound ones are empty, aiming to collect the commuters waiting at the Park and Ride I was close to about twenty minutes earlier. The southbound passengers share the same general destination as I. They just get there sooner. They don't get to stop for a venti along the way but I'm sure they have options before and after the ride. I take the bus home on days I run in. I get to listen to music on my second-generation iPod, a hand-me-up from my oldest son that still works perfectly.
The houses and trees block my view but the glowing sky to my left tells me the sun, growing more lazy since autumn's arrival, is peeking over the horizon. The street lights begin to turn off as I reach Country Homes Blvd. I say "Good morning" to two Basset hounds, their baying informing their neighbors of my presence, and climb the short hill past Cascade Way. I finally arrive at Francis, roughly the halfway point. I've only been running for 45 minutes and I feel like I could go on forever.
I enjoy running without known distance markers. When I have a route with clear checkpoints, I tend to focus on the time it takes to get from one to the other. I feel under pressure to finish in a certain time. It takes away all the joy.
That last mile was 8:23. The one before that was 8:12. I'm slowing down. I need to pick up the pace so I can finish in....
Like I said, the joy is gone when I do that. I experienced that many times before it finally sunk in.
The dawn is bright enough and I remove my Vibrams while waiting for the light to change at Francis. I'll do the rest barefoot. The sidewalks along Wall are pretty rough. Weather worn, pockmarked by rock salt sown to melt the snow, cracked and bumped by tree roots, they challenge me. I focus on relaxing. When traffic permits I run in the roadway where the surface is level and predictable. I bounce back and forth between sidewalk and asphalt as oncoming cars approach and pass by. A cyclist zips by, takes a good look back at me, and then fades away in the distance.
I jink over one block to Post Street and stop at Garland. It's been an hour now. I fish the water bottle out of my pack and have a drink. Perspiration marks where the pack and its straps come into contact with me, but the dry-fit shirt makes short work of the moisture buildup. A minute later I put the pack on and resume my pace. I get to breath easy going down the Post Street hill. A young man walking a dog stops to gawk at me. He doesn't acknowledge my "Good morning" and just stares at me.
Just before reaching Buckeye I move over one more block to Lincoln. It's nice and quiet with very little traffic. I run unimpeded on the road and easily get across Indiana and Mission. I spot a man I see nearly every morning when I ride my bike to work and tell him "Good morning" as I usually do. Odd, he ignores me this time. Not my problem. I arrive at Boone and wait for the light to release me for the second-to-last downhill to the new Y.
After crossing Mallon, I pass by a building when a van suddenly comes out of the alley. He slams on the brakes and I latch onto a traffic sign pole to help me stop. With the danger averted I give the guy a wave and start running again down to the Post Street Bridge. I get to the smooth sidewalks along Avista and City Hall and they feel cool and soothing to my soles. Around the corner of City Hall, two more blocks and I'm at work. I didn't even think to check the time.
Calm. Refreshed. Invigorated. A great way to start the day.