I’ve always been more of an evening/night runner, rather than a morning runner. Sometimes the schedule allows it, sometimes it doesn’t. Last night it did.
Taking my daughter to an evening appointment meant that I wouldn’t be able to hit the track until 8:30, which is a lot later than the planned 5:30. Of course the upside is that the sun had gone down by the time I started, and that 95 degrees had given way to 85 — much better! Still ridiculously humid, though.
Fortunately, I had a relatively short workout in mind – 4x one mile, with a recovery lap in between. The intent was to get my tempo back after several months of down time, keeping a 185-190 cadence, regardless of the actual track speed.
As I wrote yesterday, I’ve got a really intense competitive streak and the challenge for me is keeping that in check, especially coming off of injury, so I was less than pleased to see a running group on the track, along with the usual random gaggle of walkers and joggers, and a soccer game in the infield. That meant distractions, as well as traffic and runners of varying speeds. That’s a real challenge to someone who runs like every runner is a rabbit to be caught!
So I threw on the headphones (music is my metronome), and got moving. I found it a little difficult to keep the cadence going, even though it was where I left off just a couple of months ago. Still, I felt light on my feet, which was the whole point of the workout. I tried to just run strong, rather than pushing pace.
I didn’t time the individual miles, for fear of creating another thing to chase. The first one was likely somewhere between 8:30 and 8:40. Around this time, the running group broke up and left, and the sun was fully down. It was still quite humid, but a little cooler.
The second mile felt much better – a combination of less traffic on the track, and my Achilles loosening up completely. That typically happens in the second mile of any run, so I was happy about that! Two high school runners showed up, running 200s in spikes. A couple of older runners (said as if I’m young…) kept churning along in the outer lanes. This mile was pretty smooth, around 8:15.
Just before I started the third mile, the soccer game broke up, with the players doing a quick lap cool down and breaking down the field. Right after I got underway, the sprinters finished doing their set of 200s, and by the end of the rep, I had the track to myself. People were still milling about, but they were in my periphery. Breathe in, breathe out. Keeping it steady and keeping up with the metronome. Staying light on my feet. No idea how long it took me to cover this one, but it felt strong.
There were only a handful of people left in the infield as I started the final mile. A couple kids ran up and down the bleachers, watching the lacrosse game happening on the adjoining field. Parents walked across the track with their soccer kids in tow. After the first quarter mile, the last of them left, turning the lights off behind them. The track was dark, with the exception of some light spilling over from the lacrosse field, and some single lights at the corners of the home bleachers. I finished the rep alone, and feeling good.
The Achilles showed no signs of soreness (until this morning, that is). I unplugged the headphones as I walked a couple of cool-down laps. The peaceful evening, punctuated by the chatter of families at the lacrosse field, reminded me of why I like running at night. It allows me to look at the day in retrospect, instead of thinking and planning about the day to come.
It lets me live in the moment, and that’s the thing I’ve missed the most about running.