Do you ever get so stuck in your normal routine that you sort of forget that it’s okay to move things around? You cling to one allotted time for, say, running, and then you hit an errant day in which it’s not really ideal (at all) and you scramble to try to rearrange everything else that is much less pliable than you and your running shoes. If you’re lucky, before you set your alarm for some ungodly hour you’ll realize that it might be okay to run after work instead, just this once, which coincidentally would mean a less treacherous run in actual daylight with your favorite tunes, versus a somewhat terror filled slog in the dark requiring an alert eye and ear for various dangers. In this not-so-hypothetical-fable, I ventured into the unknown this week—the land of the evening run.
There’s a lot I love about running in the morning, namely the sense of accomplishment early in my day, big breakfasts, and lazy evenings. I’m also used to running on a mostly empty stomach, which tends to cut down on the potential for at least food related issues; my occasional pre-run banana has been thoroughly vetted. Also, running in the morning means I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed, or at least have only exerted energy to brush my teeth and put on my shorts. An evening run puts an entire day’s worth of other things in front of the one thing that requires the most out of my physical being. But, I sucked it up, and laced up my shoes after work, because sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I didn’t mind getting some extra sleep, taking a little pressure off myself in the face of other obligations, and in some ways it felt like a novelty. I spent the afternoon pumping myself up and counting down. The plan was to run the first mile to mile and a half from work, dump off my bag, and keep going. I worked out all the logistics; emptied all the extra stuff out of my messenger bag to lighten my load, figured out how to use the cross strap to keep my bag tethered to my body, made a legit packing list so I didn’t forget a sock, or worse yet, my headphones.
As I didn’t want to actually be seen leaving the building in my running gear with my bag awkwardly strapped to me like I was on the lam, I snuck into a bathroom on the basement floor to change and make my exit. I felt slightly conspicuous, but decided not to care. The bag situation wasn’t as comfortable or bounce-free as I had hoped, and required some help from my hand to keep it snug, but I survived. Quick dump-off at home, grabbed some water, and was back at it.
The real reason this was a challenge was that this run was my weekly long speed workout, and part of me was afraid I’d have trouble doing it later in the day on more tired than usual legs. It was also going to be warmer at 5 PM than it is at 6AM. The list could go on and on. The point was simply to do it, and while running with my bag was annoying, it also meant my warm up was half way over, and that I was, in fact, actually doing it. My prescribed workout was a mixed pace workout—2 mile tempo block followed by 5 x 1K repeats, then one final race pace mile. I had an easy half mile between each of those larger blocks, and a minute jog between each of the kilometer repeats. Mentally this made the run feel manageable. The two miles didn’t feel too daunting after weeks of doing much longer race pace blocks, and then I essentially just had to make it through those 5 shorter bursts. Spoiler: I came, I sweat, I rocked it.
I accepted this run as a mental challenge and decided that it would do me some good to try a harder run in uncomfortable and unfamiliar circumstances. I was very distracted in the beginning by all the extraneous factors, like leaving work, the odd feeling of the sun setting, wanting to not be too late in eating dinner, but at some point I let it all go and was just running and focused on my pace targets. The truth is that I did feel more tired, my legs more heavy, my feet not quite as light, but somehow I grunted through it anyway.
Running later in the day does feel very different. I notice it most in my feet; going from work shoes to running shoes felt fairly jarring. I don’t wear heels or anything too uncomfortable to work, but I noticed that my running shoes felt especially squishy when I put them on, and it felt much more unnatural to start. The silver lining was not really needing much time to warm up. My first morning mile is usually my wake up mile, but I blew through this first mile like I had been at it for awhile.
Mostly I’m relieved to get back to busy as usual. For the record, I did two evening runs this week. The day after this workout I had 8 easy miles, but another wonky work morning, so, c’est la vie. It’s not the physical feat, per se, that was the catalyst for reflecting on this. It was mostly acknowledging that I am highly a creature of routine. This bodes well for training; I like having a schedule and a plan. I like knowing what’s coming when, with a little wiggle room as needed. Running at the same time every day allows me stick to my plan, and my mornings are generally more predictable than my evenings. But sometimes it’s probably good to be forced to loosen up a little, if you consider running 10.5 miles after work “loosening up.”
Already excited for tomorrow morning,
*Photo credit: a710is