One of the questions I get all the time is, “Where do you get your legwarmers?”
Another frequently asked thing is, “How do you wake up so early to run every day?”
The truthful answer is that I have always been a morning person. Waking up at 5 AM is so much easier for me than staying up until midnight. If a friend tells me a party doesn’t start until 10 PM, I know I’ll need a nap to make it that late. Yes, to me, 10 PM is a late hour at which to begin my night.
But 5 AM? 6 AM? That’s when I do all my best work.
So whenever someone asks me for advice about “becoming a morning exerciser,” I’m often at a loss. I don’t have fancy tips or tricks to make it happen. I guess, if it helps, you can put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so you have to get up to turn it off, or you can turn the lights on immediately when you wake up. Those things help.
Really though, you just have to do it without making excuses. You’re tired? Yup, so am I. Get up. Your bed is warm and Central Park is cold? OK. Layer up and get moving. You don’t feel like it? Fine, then just don’t be a morning workout person. If it doesn’t work for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t really matter when you sweat (I mean, apparently science says working out at different times during the day has different effects, but go with me here). If you want to work out, make it happen whenever works best for you.
And that brings me to my point: People who don’t work out in the morning regularly seem to think it’s this huge, amazing feat when others rise and run before dawn. I, however, think you night runners deserve all the credit. What you do is damn hard, and I envy you.
Coach Cane wants me training more regularly with his Thursday night City Coach group. I absolutely love his group of runners, and they’re all so nice and encouraging. They always ask what race I’m training for and they motivate me to be a better runner. It’s a very casual, non-competitive atmosphere, which is amazing considering most of Coach Cane’s racers, including his kickass wife, are triathletes, Ironmen and race winners. There’s rarely a local race where someone from City Coach doesn’t take home a top spot, either overall or in his or her age group.
I don’t necessarily get intimidated to run with the group. I know I’m by far the slowest of the bunch, but I don’t let that bother me. I know running with faster people is good for me.
I do, however, get intimidated by the fact that they all run at night so effortlessly. After my second and most-dreadful-run-ever with City Coach, I tried to swear it off for life. To summarize that run: I was out with Coach Cane and one of his top racers and I — twice — almost had a very scary Crohn’s-related incident. I had to convince a nice doorman at a fancy Central Park West apartment building to let me use his basement bathroom. It was embarrassing. So dang embarrassing.
While last night’s run wasn’t embarrassing — I was still the last person to finish the run and my pace on the final two laps were nowhere near where I had hoped they’d be — it still wasn’t my best work. I don’t know what’s going on with my running lately. It just hasn’t felt on.
The workout was as follows:
- Warm-up from JackRabbit to West 72nd Street in Central Park
- Run the 4-mile Central Park loop, counterclockwise, at marathon goal pace (8:45–8:50 for me)
- Run two lower loops of the park (1.79 miles per loop), counterclockwise, at “ambitious but not delusional” half-marathon goal pace (7:45s would have been nice and keeping it under 8:00s was ideal)
- Cool-down to wherever
The result? My warm-up from my apartment to JackRabbit was way too fast. Like, two minutes per mile too fast. I was running late thanks to the ol’ stomach, and had to book it to get there in time. The warm-up to the park was fine, of course, because I was with the group, plus Simon was there and he was awake, so rather than listening to Coach Cane describe the workout, I made smiley faces at Simon instead.
The 4-mile loop was OK. I stuck with the group, and the group went faster than I should have gone. I wanted to be running around 8:45s, and at times we were, but overall the paces were closer to 8:30s. Not a huge difference, but enough for me to take note.
Then most of the group left because many of them are racing the New York City Half Marathon on Sunday. I set off for two lower loops, and I just wasn’t feeling it. My body felt tight, and even though my hip and knee didn’t hurt, my stomach wasn’t quite right and I just couldn’t get myself to speed up.
I finished the loops and shuffled home, happy to have knocked out 12 miles on a Thursday night, but bummed that running has felt so challenging and unnatural for me lately.
Here’s how the splits look. My watch took an entire mile to get a satellite, so tack on an extra warm-up mile at the beginning:
The workout started around mile 2.5 or 3 and continued through mile 9.25. I should have used my fancy pace button, but I was lazy and, frankly, didn’t care too much.
So as you can see, miles 6–8 are the ones that should have clocked in at sub-8:00s, and they didn’t. I don’t know how long I can get away with the “I’m recovering from a stomach flu and potentially on the verge of a Crohn’s flare-up” excuse, and I hate excuses, so I’ll just be honest and say I probably didn’t try hard enough. I was working hard, but didn’t push myself in a “balls to the wall” kind of way. I felt sufficiently drained by the end, but I think that has more to do with the fact that I ran 12 miles than the fact that I pushed my pace as hard as possible.
The great news is that I miraculously didn’t have to make bathroom stops along the way…which is a good thing, because all the Central Park bathrooms were closed! At least a few of them pop open in the early hours.
And so, night runners, my legwarmers are off to you. It is amazing to me that you can work all day and then feel motivated to put on sneakers and end your night with a bunch of miles, particularly if you’re setting out to do speedy ones. By the end of any given day, I’m tired, my stomach is full and funky-feeling and while I’m happy to sit on a spin bike, I find it difficult to push myself on a run. You do that, though, and I think that’s incredible.
Also, it’s so hard to eat after a night run! How do you eat dinner? All I wanted after this run was a cold, fruity juice. I’m turning into a weird person.
I couldn’t eat any solid food. Also, I got a wicked rush about an hour and a half later. Like, a major energy surge. I couldn’t shut up and I was all wiggly and energized. How do you people run at night and then get to sleep? I was too amped up! I also had a really sexy “I just ran in the cold and now I can’t stop coughing” thing going on.
Power to you, night runners. Teach me your ways. Tell me what you eat all day before you run, and tell me how you seamlessly transition from work-mode to workout-mode.
Maybe someday I’ll run fast after 6 PM. But until then, give me an 8 AM race time and I’ll gladly pop out of bed for it.
SERIOUSLY, GIVE ME YOUR TIPS: If you’re a night runner, how the heck do you do it?
And good luck to all the racers this weekend! I feel like I’m the only person not racing a half this weekend, and I’m totally fine with being on the sidelines cheering you all on. Run fast, run hard and prove you’re a badass by puking on the finish line. Or something.