First-Time Finisher: The Morning-Run Conundrum

To rise and shine for an a.m. run, or to sleep in and put it off 'til later? That is the question

Can someone please hit the snooze button? Photograph by Burke/Triolo Productions

I am writing this blog entry very early in the morning, very slowly. I keep waiting for my grande to kick in, but based on my energy level, I think Starbucks forgot to put caffeine in its coffee this week.

To explain the zombie-typing, I should let you know now that I’ve spent the week playing around with my running schedule. It usually looks something like this:

Monday morning: An ambitious Annie sets her alarm for 5:30 a.m.. This is enough time time to do some intervals, lift weights, beat her roommates to the shower, eat Kashi, and get to work on time.

Tuesday morning: A well-intentioned Annie wakes up at 5:30 a.m., shuts her eyes, and opens them again at 6:30 a.m. Confused, but not be beaten, she does an abbreviated run, skips all stretching, and buys a muffin on the way into the office. Arrival time at work: 9:05 a.m.

Wednesday morning: A stiff, weary Annie sleeps in, feels guilty, and eats another muffin. Begrudgingly, she runs after work.

Thursday morning: Zonked from the run the night before, Annie ignores the alarm again. Happy hour beckons. Thursday seems like as good a day as any to not run at all.

Friday morning: Refreshed, Annie wakes up for an ultra-short jog, allowing for post-work fun. She can have it all, dammit!

Anyone with a full-time job knows that marathon training is a time-suck. To juggle demanding office hours with long workouts (not to mention those pesky friends and family obligations), runners have to go through all sorts of scheduling contortions.

The easiest solution, of course, is just to wake up early. I swear that some of my runner friends are half rooster. Their alarms go off at 5:30, maybe even 5 a.m., and they rise from the sheets like Nosferatu from his coffin, straight-backed and ready to rumble.

With the exception of the few, ambitious days described above, I respond to my alarm like Nosferatu does to morning light: scowling, hissing, and eventually dissolving into a defeated heap of linen. I look out the window at an increasingly dark and cold morning sky, and decide I would actually rather chew glass for breakfast than go for a run.

Aside from laziness, my only other excuse for these pitiful waking hours is that my runs just don’t feel as good in the morning. I’ve read that because your muscles stretch and become more agile over the course of the day, it’s normal for afternoon and evening runs to feel better than morning ones. Call me crazy, but I’d rather finish a run feeling fast and exhilerated than stiff and rushed.

So this week, I decided to quit the game of chicken with my alarm clock. I don’t need to torture myself with another daily battle. An after-work run still counts. If I need to get to the office a little earlier to run at a decent hour of the night, so be it.

Alas, life still gets in the way of training, and vice versa. To get everything done around the office, work out, socialize, and sleep more than a handful of hours a night, I’m still tangoing with my snooze button each morning. Now that my runs are getting longer, and race day is inching closer, the sacrifices that have to be made for a marathon are becoming more obvious.

I’m increasingly awed by trainees who make it happen no matter what hour they have to rise. The idea that some runners work, train, and take care of small children flabbergasts me. I can barely manage this blog series.

Thankfully, the week is almost over. For two blissful days, I’ll shut off the alarm and run at my leisure. On Monday, I’ll start another week of waging the work-life-running balance battle. But only for six more weeks.

Wait, only six weeks?


Readers: How do you juggle life and a strict running regime? When do you get your runs in? And how do you do it? Annie could use your sage advice.

Research editor Annie Monjar blogs about training for the Philadelphia Marathon each week here on Be Well Philly. Want to catch up on the series? Here are her earlier posts, starting from the beginning:
Taking the Marathon Dive
• Running a Marathon is @#^%*! Expensive
• The Great iPod Debate
• Knowing When to Take a Day Off
• A Good Trail Is Hard to Find
• Is Yoga Worth It for Runners?
Group Runs Are for Angry Birds
Does a Runner’s Diet Matter?