It's just after seven in the morning. Toast has been consumed and coffee is about to fall victim to the same fate. In less than an hour I'll be puffing away down the roads and walking trails that run along my town's coastline, praying those dark clouds outside have already shed their load.
I'm not a natural runner. I'm sort of decent at most amateur athletics, as long as they don't require too much upper body strength, but I really enjoy walking and cycling and running. Walking is the one that churns up the most new writing ideas, but running is the best calorie burner…plus I've come to really love sweating, and when I'm finished I feel high from the endorphins and my stress levels are reset. That's a boon to writing as well.
I try to run four to six days a week. Before anyone decides to be impressed, I don't run especially far, typically only two and a half to three miles. That's 20 to 30 minutes, which is good amount of time for me. It gets my blood pumping without risking injury to my sometimes fussy knees. On a good day I run an average of nine minutes a mile, closer to ten if I'm groggy or if it's reeeaaallly humid. I know this because I invested in some good Nikes with a sensor that sends info to my iPod—that thing's cool enough to warrant its own post some other day.
Right now I've got a goal. I ran my first charity 5K (3.1 miles) a couple weekends ago. I didn't do quite as well as I'd hoped…nerves made my mouth incredibly dry and my bladder antsy. Charming. Plus I'd never run in a race before, and I assumed listening to music wasn't kosher. Well half the other runners had their headphones on, and I could have used some music to block out the sound of my own raspy breathing. Next time, I'm bringing entertainment. But I did finish the 5K and only a minute or so later than I'd hoped, somewhere in the top 40% of the racers. Now I'm "training" to run the Devil's Chase on Halloween in Salem—that's 6.66 miles. Twice as far as the 5K and then some. I have a marathon-running brother so when I first got back into running I thought a 5K wasn't long enough to count as "real running". Well, I've come to accept that I'm not my brother, and 5K is plenty long. And 6.66 miles will be tough for a morning jogger like me, even if my big brother runs eight miles before breakfast in under an hour.
My training regimen's super simple. I started last week with a "long run" goal of 3.25 miles. This week—today—the goal is 3.5. If I add a quarter mile to my "long run" each week between now and Halloween, I'll be up to 6.25, and then there's just that extra push on race day to hit 6.66. And thank goodness, the humidity and temperatures will be far better for running in late October than they are at the height of summer. And the only goal I'm setting myself for the race is to show up and to finish—no time pressure.
Damn, it's starting to rain now…I hate putting my run off so late that my caffeine runs out. In the meantime I'll get my iPod loaded up…two episodes of the BBC Radio 4 soap opera The Archers, plus a few songs inbetween should be enough to fill up those 3.5 miles. And when I get back, rain- and sweat-soaked and beet-red in my freckly Irish face, I'll feel fantastic.