Friday, August 8, 2014

Early Birds and All-Nighters

What’s the best time of day to go for a run? Ask 20 people and you'll probably get at least a dozen different answers, along with the cheeky anti-runners who predictably spout "Never!” cackling loudly at their own witty sense of humor. Super original. During the James River Scramble this year, I overheard a few conversations about how this race was more difficult because of its 7pm start time. One lady was insisting that her body is simply not made to run in the evening (you know I had to smoke that chick). I’ve also heard people say things like, “My legs refuse to run before 10am.”

The night owls.

Don’t worry, I’m not immune to the “I only like to run at a certain time of day” thing, either.  I've always loved running first thing in the morning; checking it off my list and getting my run-glow on puts me in a great frame of mind for the rest of the day. Other folks I've talked to swear by the 5:30 happy-hour run after work. Around 5:30pm at my house, I’m typically cooking dinner, playing Hide & Seek, or trying awkwardly to do both at the same time. So that’s out for me.

I read ultra-runner Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All Night Runner when I was first catching the running bug in high school. Along with being instantly fascinated with the idea of ultra-running, I was floored to learn that many of his training runs were in the middle of the night, after which he’d shower and head to his day job, with zero sleep. Who does that? As I learned more about Mister Karnazes (2004 Badwater winner, 11-time Western States finisher), I realized that it’s not when you train but how you train. This guy may seem a little crazy for running while everybody else is in dreamland, but he once ran 50 marathons in all 50 states in 50 consecutive days (say what?!) so he’s clearly doing something right.

Mister K is obviously on a different level than most of us will ever aspire to, but his all-night running makes more sense to me now that I’ve got a family of my own and stuff to do (besides my long run) every weekend. Life is busy; running has to fit in there somewhere. Karnazes may be sleep-deprived, but he is smart to run while there is very little chance of any other family, work or social stuff popping up and jacking up his run. Unless you have a newborn, a drunk-dialing friend or a really crazy boss, 2am is a pretty uneventful time. I used to try to run after work and stuff always had a way of coming up; my nephew’s soccer game, a chatty neighbor, a large glass of wine.... You name it, it's gotten in the way of me and an afternoon run. No one’s ever come over to borrow my colander or fill me in on some juicy cul-de-sac gossip at 6am. Nope.

The downside of running early in the morning? The early in the morning part. The putting your feet on the ground part. The obnoxiousness of an alarm that rings at 5:30 part. Once you get over those minor nuisances, the early morning RVA beauty is totally worth it. Most of the time. I mean usually. I mean always.

If you are up and running at 6am and do need to borrow that colander, come and get it.
You know I’m up.

-Michelle Baltz-