Embracing ‘stupid o’clock’

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I was going to call it ‘arse o’clock’ but thought maybe I shouldn’t put that in the TITLE of the post…

I am a morning runner – almost exclusively. Occasionally I go out for a trot (I am forbidden from using the word ‘jog’) or walk with one of the evening groups but the vast majority of my runs (certainly the regular ones) are in the mornings.

Non-runners (mostly colleagues) often ask me how I can possibly get up and do a 10-12km run before work – especially at this time of year when a large part of the run is under cover of darkness.

There is no easy answer to that. Well, actually, yes there is. I’ll plagiarise the Nike slogan again. I “Just Do It”!

I was never really a morning person. I rarely woke up before my alarm (unless one of my cats decided to start sniffing my face). The only thing that would get me up before sunrise was a sporting event on TV or a red-eye flight.

When I first started running, my schedule consisted of parkrun on a Saturday (8am – reasonably civilised although not so much after a big Friday night!) plus a run with the Nike Run Club in the city on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. The Nike group was really good – with options of 5, 7 or 10km depending on how energetic I felt and what I had to do afterwards!

However, getting into the city, finding a park and getting to the Nike store for a 6pm start was a challenge. Admittedly I think the group is aimed at city workers and students, who are already in town. For them, it would be ideal. For me, not so much.

Probably the main thing that turned me into a morning runner, is the fact that there is ALWAYS something you would rather be doing (or NEED to be doing) on a weekday evening. There might be dinners, movies, shows (ESPECIALLY during summer and Mad March) or sometimes just leaving work a bit later than planned. None of these are generally the case in the mornings. As far as I can see, there is only one reason for not getting up for a run in the morning, and that is the desire to stay in bed (I won’t go into any further details on that – use your imagination)!

I managed to make the Nike runs a regular thing for a period of time (just long enough to get my free T-shirt!) until one week I couldn’t make it to either run and I decided to give one of the SARRC (South Australian Road Runners Club) morning runs a crack.

My first SARRC run was a Friday morning run at Burnside. I remember it clearly because it was the Friday after the 2013 Barossa Marathon. It was the Sunnyside Road run – which will mean nothing to many people but regular Burnside group runners will know it well. (All of my running groups have a selection of runs – traditionally we don’t get told which run we’re doing until we are about to start.)

I tried to stick with the fast group at the start, running uphill along Glynburn Road (later finding out that was the ‘warm-up’ hill – the ‘proper’ hill was yet to come!). I ended up walking a lot after that (I had never run hills before!) but fortunately one of the runners, Phillipa, was taking it easy as part of her recovery from the marathon, so she ran/walked with me. Otherwise I would have got totally lost!

Phillipa told me that I should try running with the group on a Tuesday morning, where most of the runs were flat. I turned up the following week only to find that the chosen run that day was one of the two Tuesday hilly runs! However I got through it, actually managing to run the whole way and running 12km for the first time – my goal that year was to run the City-Bay so it was nice to have made it to the 12km distance!

Tuesday and Friday mornings quickly became part of my routine, and the 5:15/5:20 (yes there is a 5:20 in the morning now!) alarm gradually became less and less dreaded. I met more people each week and started going to the traditional post-run coffee which quickly became a highlight. Over time I added a Thursday morning run to my weekly schedule, and combined with Monday and Wednesday morning gym sessions, I was getting up early almost every day.

Sunday morning long runs became part of the schedule when I started training seriously for my first marathon. That was probably the most challenging of all for me because I was used to going out on Saturday nights. It was definitely worth curtailing my Saturday night activities though, because I couldn’t imagine wanting to go for a long run later on Sunday, on my own.

Right there is another reason why mornings are so much better for me – all the runs I do are very social. I’ve referred to that in a previous post and it is very important to me.

Another reason I can think of for embracing ‘arse o’clock’ is particularly relevant in the summer – it is so much cooler in the early morning, before and soon after sunrise, than it would be later in the day! (That, of course, is a curse in the winter!)

Friday mornings in particular, when we run trails in the summer, have the added bonus of AMAZING views, spectacular sunrises and often wildlife sightings (I’ve seen kangaroos, koalas and even the occasional deer!). Many of the trails we run are inaccessible by any means other than foot. That means, to see the view, you have to damn well EARN it!

Not long ago, and possibly mentioned in a previous blog post, I did my first training run for the Yurrebilla 56km ultramarathon. It was about a 17-18km run, and that week I was supposed to do around 30km as part of my Gold Coast Marathon training plan. So I decided to do an out and back run, making it around 35km (the ‘official’ run was one way, requiring carpooling). I had 2 choices – start at 8am with the main group, stop at the ‘finish’ for refreshments,  then run all the way back, or, start at 5:45am from the ‘finish’ in the dark, meet the group at the ‘start’, and finish with the main group. I decided on the latter and boy was I glad when I got to the finish – I was all done by 10:30 and had the rest of the day! And the early part of the run, in the dark, by the light of my headlamp, was So. Much. Fun!

Here’s another example. This weekend was Victor Harbor parkrun’s first anniversary.  Anniversaries are always marked by amazing cake and a great atmosphere! So I got up at 5:30 and drove one and a half hours to run a 5k. Then after cake and coffee, drove one and a half hours back. TOTALLY worth it though because this week was one of the rare times it rained on my usual parkrun at Torrens. At Victor we had no rain, OK a little headwind, and did I mention CAKE?

If I don’t have you convinced already that it IS worth getting out of bed to go for a run in the morning, think of this: imagine how energetic and virtuous you will feel for the rest of the day? One of my most favourite things is running on a cold winter’s morning in shorts and singlet, past people sitting at the bus stop all rugged up in jackets and beanies, looking incredulously as if thinking ‘How is she out in this weather dressed like that?’ I’m not cold. Well maybe at first, but it doesn’t take long to warm up. And somehow I think it helps me stay warm for the rest of the day.

You should at least try it once… give it a few weeks and you’ll be hooked!

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