...so I did what any reasonable person would do: I woke up and went for a run. At two in the morning. There comes a point where you realize you're just NOT going back to sleep. You can try, but the best thing that will happen is you'll lie there and your thoughts will finally leave you alone. Mine wouldn't even do me that kindness, so I decided to take them outside behind the proverbial woodshed.
I pull on the stretch knit shirt, noting that it's stretching a little bit more. Have to lay off the ice cream. Then a short sleeved shirt, then one of my long-sleeved cycling jerseys. I know it's going to be cold. I feel around in the darkness for my sneakers, crawling around the floor like a lost penitent until I find them. I clod downstairs, but with a sense of purpose that lying sleepless in bed never allows. I pull on the cap Mrs. Fish bought me, zip up mango, throw on my full-fingered cycling gloves (they're JUST warm enough for this weather) and head out the door.
It's cold, but not as cold as I thought it would be. According to the local station, it's 25 degrees with a 10-15 mph wind. I start out, my legs churning slowly, Jack Haley coming to life. I loop up around the cul-de-sac of our neighborhood, feeling the blood moving through my legs now. I glide down the long, shallow incline, thinking about the kids I saw Sunday pushing their bikes up. I can't remember, but I'm pretty sure I never pushed my bike up a hill as a kid--it was a matter of pride. At the bottom of the hill I bank right and begin the first long, steep climb. It's an easy one because I am sufficiently warmed up now. Something scatters to my right--bunniez!
I have this thing about bunniez on my runs. They watch me with their baleful glares, often failing to move at my approach. It's a little disconcerting, the thought of pernicious rabbits, especially when one is out on a run. Alone. At two in the morning. I'm hoping they haven't gone tharn, but if there are tharn rabbits, this would be the kind of neighborhood where it would happen. I pick up the pace a little.
I loop down past where Little Fish's friends live and used to live. I wonder about how transient we've become. People drift in and out of our lives all the time. Where do they go? I get a tailwind and things go unusually quiet. The only sound now is the swish-swish of mango (not to be confused with the swish-swish of Mango) and the sound of my feet as they touch down on the asphalt. I sound lighter. I feel lighter. Up the hill and past where the babysitter used to live before she went on to college. I hope she is doing well. I'm gliding now.
I head down the street I use to come home to my girls every night. I like this part of the run because I step up onto a long stretch of grass that is no-man's land, running for a different feeling, a different sound. It forces me to concentrate on the actual running more, watching my footfall, making sure I am in the middle of the grass where is is flat, not on the sides where it is pocked with dimples, holes, disaster. It's a busier road, so it's not unusual to see cars at all hours of the day or night. At 2 am, this thought brings concerns, but thankfully I see no one. I am completely, utterly, blessedly alone. I cross the pedestrian walk, running across the Abbey-Road marks and up onto the grass on the other side, passing by the Catholic church. I still have over a mile to go, but I consider this the beginning of the home stretch.
A left brings me off the "busy" street and back into the neighborhood. Another long, slow incline (commonly called a false flat in running circles because to look at it you would think it was flat, until you run it and wonder why you're breathing hard) precedes the second steep climb on my run. I like this hill. It's not a big hill, but it tests me. Mentally and physically. This morning is no different. But I am looking forward to home, so I power up the hill, volant now. After three knee surgeries, I find I prefer climbing uphill to going downhill. Cycling remains, of course, the opposite.
I make the right into the newest section of our development, then coast through it, quickly and easily. Coming out the other side, I face the hill upon which the neighborhood boys walked their bikes on Sunday. I am feeling good and flow up the hill, like an MC Escher river, defiant of gravity. I pass my house on the right. I have set up my run so that I have to pass my house to return to it. Just one more mental test, to see if I want to go on, or just quit there. I've only done it a couple of times, and those were call-of-nature related.
Once more around the neighborhood cul-de-sac, past my sleeping neighbors and friends. I stretch out a bit, but not much on the straightaway to home. My legs are tired, but they feel good. I feel good. My head is clear. My breathing is even. I run through the finish line, the lamp post that casts its light on my front lawn. This morning it has a rainbow halo around it, the kind the Farmer's Almanac says portends snow. I bend at the waist, grab my knees and catch my breath, then go for my cool down, knowing I will return to an angel's halo about the lamp that watches over my home, opening my front door to the warmth and quiet stillness that awaits.