I must be in training again. I’m not entirely sure for which event, because the key race for 2014 is too far out to be a proper target. But there is little else than “training mode” that explain why I found myself quite against my will outside at about 6.45PM on Saturday evening.
To make sure that I do some running, instead of living on the Couch of Doooooom, I use one of the free training schedules that comes with the Runkeeper app for iPhone. It’s a nifty little app that tells you where you went, how fast (or rather slow, in my case), and how long it took you, using GPS and other technical jiggery pokery. My goals are modest: a sub-65 minute 10K plan. Stop sniggering. I am slow and my best time for that distance is 66’ and dates from 2008, when I was a faster Falmouth Road Runner than I ever was before or after. The plan for Saturday said 3 miles + strides (20” flat out, 2’ recovery x3). Of course on Friday night I went to bed with the noble idea that I would be out running by my usual weekday 7am. I was awake at that time on Saturday, but getting out?of?bed? Nooooo! I would do it later. After breakfast. Yes! But after breakfast I felt the urge to run a few errands in town, instead of 3 miles with strides. And when I came back in the middle of the afternoon I was talking myself quite successfully out of that run. A Skype chat with my parents later, evening had fallen and I don’t like running in the dark evenings. (Princeton is perfectly safe, I just prefer to see where I am going) So I procrastinated some more on the running front by fiddling around with some tasks for work that required my undivided attention then and there. By now it was probably time for dinner.
And then, instead of going down to the kitchen, my feet directed me to the bedroom, where I gathered my running gear. Strange, that was not what I had in mind. I checked the weather forecast and dug around in the drawer for a long-sleeved top, and before I knew it, I was out on the pavement- NightRider bike light in hand to see where I was putting my feet. “First Interval: 3 miles slow” the voice had said. The running had taken control of my body, and my body, slave to the endorphines, had obeyed.
That feeling of being dragged out for a run when you would rather stay cosy inside; or when your legs keep running but your mind is very very adamant that you’ve done enough and probably can take a walk break, yet the mind has no control over those legs; that feeling that you should run up that hill without stopping even when you sound like an old steam-engine’s grandma that’s about to explode; that, I know, is the training mode. Your body instinctively obeys the plan, all it wants to do is to become stronger. It knows that the human, weak mind which is now trying to talk you out of it, will regret those decisions on race day; “If only!” “If only I had done one more repeat of those stairs; If only I had not cut that Long Slow Run short; if only I had Obeyed The Plan!” Your body, when in training mode, knows that “If only”s ruin the race, and it is quite prepared to stage a coup of your mental faculties if that is what it takes.
It is dark outside. Streetlights “Belgian style” are unheard of here, only the cross roads have a light, two if it is a bigger one. Without my light in hand I would probably have kissed the pavement a few times already. Five minutes since I started running and I am feeling pretty good. Nothing hurts, the running is easy as it is supposed to be. Only I know how virtuous I am, having overcome all the odds on a cold Saturday night to nail this workout, and stick to The Plan. People in cars drive by, oblivious to my emotions, but that is alright. The running animal inside me triggers a rare feeling, indeed: superiority, compared to all those poor sods who do not understand the joy of feeling alive in the cold crisp air which hovers barely above freezing. The stars and planes overhead and the new moon keep me company.
As I run down the hill, I smell fresh baked goods, probably from the house on the corner. Tasty! Christmas is in the air. A slight bend in the road, and now the scent of freshly ironed or tumble-dried laundry hits me. Clean fresh sheets, with that lingering warmth from the dryer, a thought to keep me warm. A few streets down it is dinner time: roast in the oven, it would be even better with a tiny hint of rosemary. I think of the leftovers that are waiting for me at my house, and mentally add some paprika and curry powder to the minced beef that will serve as my protein part of the evening meal. On the return leg, I hit the jackpot: wood stove smell, like a perfume that gently floats around the street, and can only be topped by pine needles on the fire. In the dark and cold my olfactory senses seem sharper, and Princeton by night becomes a feast of fragrances that invite images of happy winter evenings, spiced up with mulled wine and cinnamon somethings or other. My run is done, and when I see the lights of my house come into view, I feel happy and warm, and it is not just the endorphines. I am in training, and I don’t care for which race. This feels good.