My eyes open and look straight towards the alarm clock. However, without my glasses, I am unable to distinguish the blurry red digits. I lean over, squinting; the clock displays 5:08. I slump back, sinking my head into the pillow, staring up at the ceiling and pondering going back to sleep. It’s early and I know it’s even earlier than the clock states as I always have it set 15 minutes fast. This goes back to the days when rising at this time would have been an almost impossible task and I relied on the loud electronic buzzing alarm to wake me. Nowadays, there is no need to set it to go off as I always seem to wake instinctively. It is as if my body has developed it’s own internal clock which stirs me naturally at this dawning hour.
The morning light shining through the curtains indicates that the night has gone and a new day is emerging. I have only been awake for a couple of minutes but already a part of me is restless. But why not the warmth and cosiness of the duvet for a bit longer, I ask myself? I roll on to my side, facing the clock. I fear turning the other way and having my back to the blurred numbers. I might fall asleep again. Just 10 more minutes would be OK but I can’t risk those 10 minutes turning in to an hour. It will then feel too late to get out there and I will be disappointed in myself for my laziness. While I lie there watching the clock, the seconds pass by and my restlessness increases. The outside is calling me; I desire to embrace it. These few minutes of waking, laying and pondering are just delaying the inevitable.
I slide discreetly out of the side of the bed and quietly make my way to the bathroom following my usual planned and prepared routine. My kit is neatly waiting on top of the laundry basket, always including various options depending on the weather. I run the tap and wait for the water to warm up but its taking too long so I splash cold water over my face. I put in my contact lenses and try to gaze through the glazed, patterned bathroom window to see if the weather looks like the not-always-accurate forecast. The sky is bright and clear and the trees are still. I put on my top and shorts, gather up the rest of my gear and creep downstairs. I pull back a curtain and the ideal conditions are confirmed.
Into the kitchen and I switch on the kettle, automatically knowing it contains enough water as I filled it the night before. I run the cold tap and drink the usual glass of water to begin hydrating. I stare out of the kitchen window. A couple of the resident garden blackbirds are tiptoeing around on the grass. The birds seem to like our small, lazily kept garden. I briefly lose myself in thought but the rumblings of the boiling kettle stir me back to my scheduled routine. I add water to my porridge pot and stir, then add water to make up my strong mug of black coffee. These are two essentials to this early-morning drill. Once I am happy with the consistency of my porridge I pick it up in one hand and, coffee in the other, I make my way into the lounge.
I turn on my iPad to catch up on emails and social media feeds. Consuming my oats takes priority, though; I need it digested so I will the benefit when I depart. I delight in each creamy, sweet mouthful from the teaspoon, believing it is going to help me endure what is to come. As I reach the bottom and take my last spoonful I feel a little sad; surely they should make these pots bigger. Once I am up to date with the world via my iPad I relax in my armchair, sipping the strong hot coffee. There is no TV or radio on and I enjoy the early stillness and solitude that this time brings. It feels like my own secret special place that no-one knows about or can interrupt. And the more I sit enjoying the silence and calm, the more I start thinking about how it would be so much easier to just sit here rather than facing the task ahead. I try to shake off these thoughts and put on my calf guards and socks. I sort out my Spotify playlist – although sometimes this is a wasted process as I will choose to expose my senses to the early chorus of nature.
I am now in the closing stages of this morning ritual and pay a quick, quiet visit to the bathroom before beginning my warm-up routine. Nothing too intense (that is to come) but some general stretching and movement. It is at this stage that I can sometimes procrastinate. It’s as if I am doubting whether to bother on this excursion, but deep down I know it is something I want to – almost have to – do. But this does lead me to create various distractions. Maybe I should give my porridge longer to digest? Or check and re-check my backpack and supplies: maybe I should take another bar or gel? Are they stored correctly, so they do not move around and become annoying? Let me just check my Spotify list again…perhaps I should create another playlist?
Eventually, though I just know I have to go. I carefully tie my shoes to make sure they have the right tightness and comfort. Some weeks this is achieved first time; others I tie and re-tie several times. I pay so much attention to this detail as I do not want to have to stop once I am on the move. With the footwear sorted I put on my backpack. I shove my headphones into a pocket; I will enjoy nature’s melody this morning. A couple more stretches and I am ready. I step outside, closing and locking the door quietly behind me. I switch on my watch and it locks on to the GPS signal.
And so I begin this long early-morning run, maybe even getting back before anyone has stirred from their beds.
How far, though? I could say that I run in the moment, seeking out and exploring new trails, not being certain of how far I will travel, but of course I know how far I’m going. I planned it the night before.
Published in Like The Wind – Issue 6