For the first month or so of school, I ran every Tuesday and Thursday morning before work. I liked waking up a little eariler and getting my run over and done while the rest of my house was still sleeping (well, usually--often times, Tommy would be standing at his gate as I tried to slip downstairs to run). I liked being able to just go straight home after work and not have to worry about where and how to fit a run into my day.
But as it got darker and darker out in the mornings, it became more complicated. My runs were erratic because I ran the first half mile so fast, trying to get out of my dark neighborhood and onto the brightly lit, heavily trafficked main road. The last time I ran in the morning, I ended up freaked out because a van pulled into a side road directly in my running path. I am certain they were probably doing something completely normal, like delivering a paper or picking someone up for a carpool. But with it still so dark outside and no one else around, I ended up turning around and doubling back because, yes, I am quite paranoid.
After that, I started running on the bike trail near my work. I've learned a lot since I've started running this area. Only crossing the road once, two miles in, is great. I don't have to worry about traffic or a car coming up behind me. I can just run.
I've learned to tell the difference between twigs and snakes. It helps when the snake is moving or in a decidedly un-twiglike shape. Still, there are times when what I think is a twig will suddenly dart into my path and yes, it startles me.
I've learned that when a faster runner passes me, it's okay to acknowledge that they're much faster than I'll ever, but that doesn't make me any less of a runner. I've learned that I will almost always be jealous of bicyclists, with their easy ways to store water. Runners, suggestions for fuel belts or do I need to just suck it up and start carrying a water bottle in my hand? I really don't like to have extra things, but I was pretty parched after seven miles today.
I've learned that because the trail has slight inclines and many curves, I never quite know what's up ahead. Each further run takes me to new sights. The first time I went seven miles, I discovered this bridge just after the 3.5 mile mark. Because I run out and back, my feet haven't taken me beneath this bridge just yet, but I am certain they will.
I've learned that no matter how I run, the half mile between my car and this bridge always seems so short on the way out, but SO LONG on the way back.
I know my car is up there, but I always feel like the end of the trail is moving away from me as I'm running and no matter how fast I go, it keeps getting further away. It's like some sort of horrible optical illusion, until I finally round the corner and see my car. I probably look like some sort of deranged maniac when I come bursting out of the trees and leap into the waiting driver's seat of my car.
Mostly, I can't believe I'm saying this, but mostly, I've learned that I love running. There were times early on when I hated it. I hated every single second that my feet hit the pavement. And don't get me wrong, there's still a huge internal struggle between lazy Erin and running Erin every time I have to go for a run, but these last few weeks, I've noticed the slow drain of stress out of my body when my feet first hit the pavement. I never thought I'd feel this way, but I'm so glad I do.