I wanted to start the week off strong. I had remind myself of that when the alarm went off at 6 and the world outside the window was dark and cold. I had to tell myself to start strong, to stay ahead, to ignore the temptation of the warm bed with my wife in it and stick to the plan.
It got cold in Cincinnati yesterday. Saturday, it was in the 50s and sunny. I checked my weather app this morning and it read 7. I gave Penny her breakfast, started a pot of coffee and got as bundled as I could while still being able to run then stepped into the harsh world outside.
The warm-up was frigid. My glasses fogged up. My cheeks stung. Even Penny, a seven month-old golden retriever with thick fur and endless energy, looked like she wanted to be someplace else. Two miles. Twenty-five minutes with the warm-up and cool-down. You can do this.
We ran in the street at first, but the first school bus of the morning got a little too close, so we went up onto the sidewalk. Run, slow, avoid ice, run again. It was active. There was thinking involved – where to place my next step, darting into lawns and ducking low-hanging branches weighed down by a sheen of ice. I couldn’t see well, but Penny seemed confident, so we continued on.
We rounded the first turn of the big, looping street. My FitBit app announced my mile split time over the podcast in my earbuds. Halfway. My lungs burned, not from effort, but from the cold. I could feel my head sweating under the thick wool cap I was wearing and the same sweat freezing when it met the air just above my eyebrows.
I was doing it. I was starting the week strong. We rounded the second turn, the one that would send us back toward home and coffee and warmth. My strides got a bit longer. I felt more confident. The caution that had slowed my first mile started to melt. My body felt warmer. My glasses cleared. I felt like I was one the right path.
That’s how it almost always is in life. You start off cautious. You gain confidence. You don’t see the black ice in the tree’s shadow thrown by the streetlights. You don’t realize you’re falling until you’ve hit the ground. Penny and I, sprawled across the sidewalk. My glasses and earbuds thrown into the snow. It doesn’t hurt yet, but you know it will, it will catch up to you and soon.
I had a choice. I could pick myself up and keep going or I could abandon the run and walk cautiously home. Even laying there, my elbow and shoulder firm against the ground, my knee already starting to throb, I recognized it as a choice. Part of me thought I should quit. Go to the gym tomorrow. Do the run on the treadmill or maybe just skip it all together. Penny licked my face as I got to my knees. She was okay. Startled, but fine.
Then that same voice, the one that convinced me not to hit snooze and go back to bed, the one that told me to start the week strong, spoke up. Keep moving. Keep going. Get it done.
I fell twice more, but there was no choice to make. I was going to run. I was going to start and finish strong. That’s when I realized I had turned a corner. That I was committed to what I said I was going to do.
I warmed up in the shower and in the car. And sitting at my desk now, everything hurts. But it’s a good kind of hurt. My elbow, my shoulder, my knees and my neck. They all hurt. But hurt is temporary. Physical pain fades. I would have been much worse off if I had chosen to not get back up and keep going, if I had not listened to that voice in my head.
It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. It looks like it will be cold.
I can’t wait to take my dog for a run.