I knew I had to do a long run tonight. It was on my mind all day. It was a busy day at the office and I prefer it that way. Keeping my mind focused on a run doesn't always mean I am amped and ready to go when the time comes.
I had a pack of some foul tasting Berry flavored Power Gel as soon as I got home and waited for it to kick in. It never did, but with that much caffeine in my system, I couldn't just sit down and do nothing. I knew I would never get to sleep if I didn't go ahead and do this run. So I got dressed. Put on my reflective gear and dressed the dog in her reflective gear too. I throw back 400 ml of Ibuprofen to stave off any pain and hit the bricks with my iPod cranked up loud with some Stevie Wonder. "OK, Lord... help me find the blessing out here" and I start out on my run.
The first mile is always the toughest, just because I really don't want to be out there. A friend of mine recently told me that I was crazy to run without ever stretching and advised me to stretch at the half mile mark. I've been doing this route for quite awhile and I know that the half-mile mark is right at the corner where my son goes to school. So, I stop and stretch for a bit. Going forward, I am doing a perverted Fartlek Method (running 4 minutes on 1 minute off). I do this any time I am running more than 5 miles.
My muscles are warm and stretched out and I have half a mile down already. The dog is behaving and my Achilles Tendon isn't killing me yet. I'm feeling pretty good. The sun is shining behind me, so I can see my shadow wobbling in time with my steps and I think, "Why am I out here running like the cops are after me when my bottom is still wobbling like Jell-O that didn't quite make it?" But I'm out there, and turning around isn't an option. The dog would be so disappointed. So I stop looking at my shadow and keep my eyes on the prize. The prize being getting back home in time to watch Jeopardy and have a slice of the pizza my husband said he would pick up while I was out.
While I'm still working on mile 1, I am running through my neighborhood and knodding at everyone I see on the street. I'm always sure to make eye contact, smile and even wave if I feel it's appropriate. If I ever turn up missing, I want the neighbors to know and remember the thirty-something Black lady who's always running with her Black Lab and in full reflective gear with LED lights. I wanna look pleasant, but I also want to look focused. I don't want to encourage conversation. This is a workout after all, and I'm not interested in chatting or being hit on. Besides, if you're not careful, you'll get maced, thanks to the little pink "Save The Ta-Tas" canister of Pepper Spray my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas.
At about mile 1.25, I am at the corner and there's a grown man holding up a Little Ceasar's Pizza sign that says "Hot & Ready - Large Pizzas $5". I remind myself to tell my children to be sure to stay in school and I keep on running. On my short runs, I would go ahead and cross this busy street, run under the freeway, make a left and head back home. But that's the 3.65 mile trek. Tonight, it's 6.5 or nuthin', so I head on down the street. I check my heart rate and I'm doing OK. I want to keep it below 165 because I don't want to go all out this early in the run. Besides, this is the hardest part, there is a very slight upgrade. The last half of the run is ever so slightly downhill.
I've hit mile 2 and it's starting to feel pretty good. Mile 2 is usually pretty good to me. The music is blasting and The Los Angeles Mass Choir is telling me "God Will Always Make A Way". That song always makes me wanna run. Yes, Jesus! By now I've got my runner's gait going and I've settled into a breathing pattern that sounds like music in my ears. There is no stopping me now and the Ibuprofen is handling the tingle in my knees fairly well. I'm starting to think this wasn't the worst idea in the world.
Mile 3 is the magic mile... Oh, I love mile three. Mile three is where I hit my first really major goal and I start working on the descend. The run is almost half over! I have another half mile to get to my favorite part of the run! It's a quieter street, there are no stores and very few driveways. It's the neighorhood Chris and I couldn't afford to move into when we were buying, but it's close enough to our neighborhood that we can still walk tall. These sidewalks look like they were paved just for running. And on top of everything else, there is that slight downgrade. I love it! We're at 3.5 miles, and it's time to start heading home.
Now I'm running toward the sun, but the sun is setting, so I take off my shades. Ahhhh..... there's that blessing I was looking for! My muscles are moving completely independently from any thought I could be having and I'm going into that Zen state where my body just goes. Yes.... This is the runners' high that you always hear about and yes, it feels good. You start to think, "I could do this all day" and you really believe you could! That pesky booty-wobbling shadow is behind me and the body in my head is strong, firm, talented and athletic! I'm well into mile 5 and I'm feeling goooood.....
I'm in the home stretch and I like this part of the run. It's busy and there are freeway entrances, restaurants, gas stations and whatnot. I don't mind running on busy streets as long as people are driving carefully. It's better than lonely streets, especially as I'm losing daylight. I have three quarters of a mile to go and I have to stop at a light. Drat! My heart rate is dropping so I'm dancing in place at the corner and I can't be bothered by the family of four who is cracking up in their SUV.
OK! the signal has changed and I'm off again!!! I'm back in my neighborhood. A quarter of a mile left to go and I am sprinting to the "Chariots of Fire" tune in my head. The other neighborhood dogs are barking and I look like a Christmas Tree running down the street with my LED lights on. Running straight for my house, I push myself to the very limit and throw open the door!
It's always the same scene. The house is a mess, the kids are screaming, the dog is jumping around and husband is supremely unconcerned that I have once again, slain The Beast. This is my Happy Place. I love it and I wouldn't trade it for a million dollars and ropes of diamonds.
Praise the Lord.