Gray Morning Runs: The Heart Thanks You

Overcast runs bring me right back to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I spent four glorious years drinking my face off nourishing my brain and learning a skill-set that would last me the rest of my life.

While it was a beautiful city, the University of Michigan’s locale isn’t known for its sunshine, at least, not during those cold, bitter winters. But when you wanna run, you learn how to simply get over it. With the proper clothes and a deep breath, running on those cold, gray mornings could really put things in perspective. It’s hard, sure, but at the end of the day, it’s also not so bad. The hardest part, really, was simply stepping out the door.

It’s at this point that I’ll refer to a page in my new favorite toy: “Running is Flying: Aphorisms, Meditations, and Thoughts on a Running Life,” which my non-running but oh-so supportive friend gifted me for my birthday. (Expect lots of similar references to come.) In it, one random page adjacent to a silly illustration notes:

Wednesday morning’s run was comparable to February: crisp and gray, which is somewhat frustrating when so many of the past few weeks have been peppered with summer-like temperatures. Not Wednesday.

No, Wednesday was one of those mornings when your bed seems to be taunting you mercilessly to crawl back under its sheets. But after Tuesday’s 25-minute quick indoor workout, I needed to spend an hour in the fresh, spring air – cloudy as it was.

I knew that Wednesday morning’s run wouldn’t be easy, and in fact, it wasn’t at all. The previous day’s squats turned into incredibly tight hamstrings, and although my hope was that my muscles would loosen up within a mile of the run, the truth of the matter was that they seemed to be getting tighter as I inched my way closer to the park.

By the time I got to Central Park’s 72nd Street entrance, my legs were screaming uncle. I had to stop and stretch, so I did, right by the benches. Less expected was that my back became unbearably tight (it still is as I sit here typing) during those first couple of miles, probably from having to shift my weight elsewhere in my body to ease the pressure from my hamstrings. In an effort to release some of that upper back and shoulder tension, I actually sat on the bench to twist and crack my spine.

Cardinal Rule No. 1: Never sit during a run. Especially in gray leggings. I needn’t go into details, but I’ll give you a hint; it starts with the word swamp and ends in the word ass.

Regardless, I felt a lot better after stretching – especially with these pretty, verdant leaves hanging above my head – and kept on going from there.

Central Park was somber and beautiful on Wednesday morning. It was quiet, save for the cabs roaring by to my right. It was misty, which was totally cool with me since I had already worked up a sweat. The droplets of rain even felt kind of nice.

By the time I got to the bottom of Central Park, I needed to stretch again, and so I did – again. That’s the really nice part about not training for anything right now; I can simply do as I please, stop when I need, and really take the time to listen to my body. (Though we all know what happened the last time I mentioned I wasn’t training for anything; I signed up for the More/Fitness Half Marathon 5 days later. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Instead of racing, I’ve been obsessing lately over another ambitious concept: trail running. I think that this weekend Noah and I are finally going to head out to greener pastures – literally – because while New York City may be concrete-heavy, apparently, there is an abundance of juicy trails all around us – and just a short train ride away at that. Don’t get me wrong; I love my morning 5-milers around Central Park. A change of scenery couldn’t hurt though.

If any New Yorkers have tips, secrets, advice or warnings about trails near Manhattan, I’m all ears. We were thinking Cold Spring Harbor in Long Island (primarily because it means we could drive and have a nice home-cooked meal waiting for us upon our return from the woods) this weekend, but I’d love for this to become a habit of ours. That is, if I don’t break an ankle or get eaten by bears.

  • Do you prefer trail or non-trail running?
  • How do you motivate yourself to get out of the house to run on a cloudy, drizzly day?
  • What are the odds I lose a limb while trail running (if it happens) this weekend?

As always, your input is greatly appreciated.

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2 thoughts on “Gray Morning Runs: The Heart Thanks You

  1. Trail running ROCKS! HOPEFULLY I am going to a local conservation area this weekend. It is hard, a whole different kind of work than sidewalks. My shins really react to it, but it is also beautiful, challenging and fun!

    Losing a limb? Unless you step on a bear trap you should be safe, lol.

    Please don’t step on a bear trap. (Just watched the movie Straw Dogs last weekend, made me think of it.)

    I motivate myself by saying, “Hey, you won’t look like Rudolph, despite the sunscreen, after your run today! Nor shall you be covered in fifty bazillion more freckles!”

    WHatever works? 🙂

  2. I really enjoy trail running and try to do 3-4 races a year. It’s so different from road racing as you have to stay really focused on the terrain. Some trails I run are pristine and well taken care of while others are very technical in the terrain. If it is something you get into, I would really recommend getting trail shoes as they can make a world of difference.

    Just stay focused and you shouldn’t lose any appendages!

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