The Triumph of a Morning Run


“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years,” old-school LL Cool J sings to me as I increase the speed on the gym treadmill to begin my run.

I’d bought this song during my new-running-music shopping spree at the beginning of the year. And by new, I mean released sometime in the last 100 years but not yet on my iPod, and by spree, I mean my cheap-about-music self plunked down a whole $20 or $30. (It’s not that I don’t love music, I do. But typically my boyfriend has and buys tons, and since we have the same taste for listening music, some of which I can use for running as well, it’s just an area in which I’ve defaulted to scrimping.)

My music-buying was an attempt to help kick-start a personal running renaissance by not just reshuffling the same old stuff I’d been listening to on runs for about the last, oh, seven years, but actually adding to it. I spent quite a bit of time researching which songs to add to my very particular running library, which includes what may seem like a strange cross-section of artists—Radiohead, Tupac Shakur, Chili Peppers, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, 50 Cent, and Justin Timberlake, to name just a few. I’d googled “best hip hop songs for running” and the same for the alternative category. LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” showed up as popular in the former category and although the beat is slow, it has a certain Rocky-esque, I-can-do-anything vibe that makes it easy to do double time, which I found out firsthand in early January when I took my new-for-me songs on a run. It’s amazing what fresh music can do. I felt enlivened, invigorated, like I could bust out a marathon at a moment’s notice.

Fast forward to late February. That is to say, now. Unfortunately, between being sick twice already, once for a week and this time heading toward three—so basically more than half of 2014—not to mention the spate of snowstorms and sub-freezing days, my running renaissance hasn’t exactly happened yet.

But today’s a new day. The antibiotics have kicked in, my cough is on the way out, and I’ve made it to the gym this fine morning.

Knowing that I was going to the gym, I didn’t sleep well past about 4 a.m., because I kept thinking the alarm would malfunction. Finally, about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off, I rolled out of bed bleary-eyed and as quietly as possible so as not to wake my boyfriend. I headed to the kitchen where I made coffee as my two cats threaded around my legs. I gave them both quick cursory petting to appease, then donned my workout wear, and my outside wear over that.

When I walked outside, I felt so happy. I was getting to the gym before work! I can’t even remember the last time that happened. It was 6:15 a.m., and I didn’t need to be back home until 7:30. My Klean Kanteen was filled with coffee, my brain with visions of a solid 50 to 60 minutes on the treadmill. The morning was silent and gorgeous—the trees still flocked from yesterday’s late afternoon storm, fresh snow hiding the dirty icy mini-mountains piled high at the curbs, the sky streaked with pink as the sun came up. Gorgeous yes, but like a cold but beautiful woman, the eye-appeal hid an iciness. Literally.

Not used to being out so early and thinking it was supposed to be somewhat warmer, I went to my car and found that the doors were frozen solidly shut, they and all the windows cemented with a thick layer of ice. By the time I dealt with all that, warmed up the car, drove to the gym, and then cast off my outside wear, I had exactly 20 minutes on the treadmill, which ordinarily I could easily use just for the warm-up and cool-down, especially when I’m not exactly in “fighting shape.” But as my legs turn over, slow but without having to worry about things like black ice or unshoveled sidewalks, I almost don’t care that I have so little time. It just feels so good to be here. And I know it’s a little thing, tiny really, but I feel proud that I didn’t turn around and head straight for bed and a bit more sleep once I realized I would have so little time.

In terms of running, these last two months have been an unfortunate extension of the last few years as I’ve dealt with one injury after another, and spent more time thinking of myself as a runner than actually being one. Sometimes I feel like running is a metaphoric bad boyfriend who keeps breaking my heart, and I wonder why I keep at it. Maybe I should just cut my losses and take up that unusual-looking sport curling, which seems to be on every time I catch some of the Sochi Olympics. Maybe I should just do yoga, and call it a day. But then I always remember: Oh right, I know why I keep going back to running.

I love it. Deep-in-my-bones true love, plain and simple.

When I can actually do it, it gives so much that makes the effort (and I guess even the necessary and boring-to-me spot strengthening) worthwhile. After a run, I feel like I can conquer the world, not to mention those problems that previously seemed insurmountable. After a run, despite a beet-red face and soaked T-shirt, I feel beautiful and thinner no matter what a camera would show or what the scale actually says. After a run, I’m just happier. The world seems like a kinder place.

I get off the treadmill—I managed to run a whole 1.5 miles between my warm-up and cool-down—and I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror that lines one wall of the gym. Being generous, I look a teensy bit disheveled, exactly like a person who rolled out of bed to squeeze in a quick workout. But that’s on the outside.

“I’m gonna take this itty bitty world by storm,” sang LL Cool J as my blood started pumping and my endorphins kicked in. “And I’m just getting’ warm.”

But the inside. That, now, is a different story.

Rocky image from




Filed under Health/Wellness, Inspiration, Running

11 responses to “The Triumph of a Morning Run

  1. Love this! And love Mama Said Knock You Out. One of my fave ’90s jams. “Awww-ahhh ah -ah!” Glad to hear you’re back at it and in love as ever.

  2. Man, you really captured this! I don’t like running one tiny little bit, and you even made me want to get out there and try again. I’m glad you have something that makes you feel like this, and that you stick with it through the obstacles. I’m impressed!

    • Ha! “I don’t like running one tiny little bit.” That made me laugh out loud. I totally understand, and you probably feel that way about something else? (But maybe you would like it if you try again. ; )

  3. I just added LL Cool J to my playlist because of this post. That sounds like a great morning run! It’s amazing how something like this can really set the tone for the rest of your day. I love endorphins. 🙂

  4. Yes, here’s to endorphins! I actually got outside yesterday, which was awesome. Not Florida, but awesome all the same. (Baltimore must feel painful after being at the sunny beach. ) Re: music, as a Radiohead fan you probably already have it on your mix, but Jigsaw Falling Out of Place is a great song to run to. And if you don’t already have it, Kanye West’s Stronger samples a lot of that Daft Punk song you like (harder, better…).

  5. So glad you’re getting back to it!

  6. I got what you mean, thank you for posting. Woh I’m glad to find this

  7. Yeah bookmaking this wasn’t a terrible idea. Fantastic post!

  8. Hello, all is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing information, that’s
    in fact excellent, keep up writing.

  9. I have desired to write about something like this on my webpage and you gave me
    an idea. Cheers.

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