Roadkill for Breakfast

I hate getting up in the mornings, I really do. It seems like I get up every single morning, stumble around, routinely stub my pinky toe on the same section of baseboard and hit my head on the same corner of the exhaust hood above our stove as I start the water for my morning cup of green tea. It usually takes me a rather unpleasant while after getting up to shake the cobwebs loose and gain the ability to do highly complex things such as walking or tying my shoes so, when I read about the benefits of pre-breakfast exercise, dismissed the idea pretty quickly. After a few months though, I finally gave in and decided to give it a try. Then, after a few more weeks of procrastination, I actually made it out the door first thing in the morning.

Saturday, February 5 was the day — (I know, I’m a bit behind on the posting), it was not too cold, in the low 60’s when I left and the sky was clear as a bell. I have a 7.5 mile course that I’ve been using for my long run for the past few weeks that features a series of  uphill false flats of varying degrees that cover just over the first half of the run. And, once I’m finished with those, the rest of the run is pretty much 3 miles of gradual downhill — guess which part of the course I enjoy more? But I digress… So, bleary eyed, I half heartedly headed out the door at around 8:00 am.

As I was still trying to wake up during my first mile, I couldn’t help noticing that there were quite a few other runners on the road. Fortunately, they were going in the opposite direction. I hate even the threat of superior competition and, at this stage in my running career, I feel like pretty much everyone’s superior so, when I do see someone else pounding the pavement, I prefer them to be going in the opposite direction. But then, up ahead, going in my direction, I spotted him. At first, I thought it might be merely a case of un-expelled eye-boogers or floaters but I soon saw that the mirage was indeed real.  Up ahead of me a hundred yards or so, I saw a runner. This was no ordinary runner though, it was one that looked slow — had he been a wildebeest or an antelope, he would no doubt have been the sickly straggler in the back of the heard, probably the one that was born with only one leg or with three out of four knees facing the opposite direction. It didn’t matter, he was someone who I could potentially pass and, as opportunist knows, even the weakest of victims was still a victim.

As we lumbered on, I continued to size him up — I looked at his stride, the stride that comes from inexperienced exhaustion and, as I drew closer, I began to notice his clothes: a black cotton Adidas warmup jacket with matching black shorts. Cool, not exactly the sort of attire that screams “I have some serious speed and experience so back off!” And, before I knew it, I had gained some pretty significant ground on him. As I drew nearer, I could see his shoes: old, white basketball shoes that had seen far more hours in the garden than on the courts shooting hoops. I watched his undefined calf muscles as they struggled to push him up a steepening false flat that would soon spell his doom. I saw his white earbuds that were piping in the music that masked the sounds of my gazelle-like stride as I swiftly closed in on my unsuspecting prey. I was now just a foot or two behind him, measuring him as a panther measures its next potential meal. I could hear his labored breathing and his feet as they clumsily slapped the ground step after step. I hung behind him for 50 yards or so when I decided to go for it.

As I passed him, I turned and saw his face. He looked a 40-something guy like me who was just out get in better shape. He probably had a wife who enthusiastically supported his attempts to improve his health and a few kids who proudly followed him down the street as he took off for his morning run. My wife and kids were still in  bed when I left — no send off for me, no mercy for him. I looked at him, he looked at me and, in his eyes, I saw a the look of defeat, the look of one who knew that he was about to be owned and who had simply given up. I guess it could have been the look of brotherly support but hey, I call ’em like I want to see ’em. Conversely, I glared at him confidently and defiantly, giving him “the look” as I kicked up my pace for the final pass. Ok, “the look” probably resembled something between dehydrated delirium and total confusion from exercise induced dementia, but hey, I don’t get to pass too many people. I glided past him, kept the up the increased pace, crossed the street and it was complete: the first official roadkill of my new-again running career.

I finished my run and, honestly, it felt great. Before heading out, I was concerned that I’d experience fatigue from a lack of fuel but that turned out to be no concern at all. And, because I had done a pretty good job of pre-run hydration, I felt great the whole way through. I’ve since done two more pre-breakfast runs, a speed workout with a local team that consisted of 4-1 mile repeats, and a 6 mile run along the Mendocino coast over the weekend, both of which I’ll be writing about this week, and so far, I’m loving the idea of heading out first thing in the morning. And, if I find the occasional runner who is slower than me, so much the better.

By the way, a huge shoutout to my niece in Iowa who today ran a 3.84 miles in 23 minutes today. Great job E!

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