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A morning runner's manifesto

Posted by Staff  March 18, 2013 07:17 AM

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100allysonmanchester.jpg Allyson Manchester is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
My high school (like most high schools) began each day with a broadcast of morning announcements. As the loud speaker crackled, we sleepily pledged our allegiance to the flag and listened to recaps of sports games, standardized test scores, and homecoming dances.

Aside from an occasional message from the principal, a student delivered the announcements every morning. The designated announcers varied from year to year, but all of their voices were the same: loud, exaggerated, and extra perky. For this reason, the heavy-lidded student body resented the morning announcers. I still cringe when I remember the phrase “Good morning, SHS!” and the otherworldly octaves that it reached on our intercom.

While “morning people” are often optimistic and well-intentioned, they are also capable of infuriating everyone in their sunlit path. For those of us who don’t find ourselves waking up to an internal chorus of Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, mornings (and morning people) are unpleasant experiences.

I believe that running has the power to improve mornings and create morning people. I do not mean the kind of morning people with cheesy grins and annoying catchphrases like “Good morning, SHS”; I mean the kind of morning people who find peace in the early hours and approach the upcoming day with confidence and energy.

In the moments when pulling off the covers is a formidable challenge in itself, heading outside for a morning run does not even seem to exist in the realm of possibility. As wise Isaac Newton figured out centuries ago, “a body at rest will stay at rest.” Getting out of bed for a run is not easy…especially when the bed is as cozy as mine.

bed.jpgI evolved into a morning runner for logistical reasons. I do not like hurriedly running through my lunch break or having to cut down my mileage when the day gets busy. I find that morning runs are easier to fit into my schedule (especially because they do not involve having to take multiple showers!) They also eliminate excuses; “I forgot my hair elastic” or “I’ve had a really long day” are not valid excuses for skipping a morning run.

Encouraged by years of Nike commercials, I have learned to throw on my reflective vest and “just do it” when it comes to running in the morning.

reflective.jpgI find that running is actually easier and more enjoyable before my brain is fully “awake,” or wraps itself around the fact that I am struggling through a speed workout on the cold, dark streets of Boston at 6 a.m. My brain is not nervous or overactive in the morning like it is during the day and it allows my body to move more freely.

As a zealot of the morning run, I could probably develop an extensive list on why I love it so much: it makes my breakfast taste better, it cuts down on heat during the summer, it gives me the freedom to sing out loud and skip to my running playlist when no one is watching, it minimizes encounters with traffic, and (sap alert) it allows me to see the sun come up.

sunrise.jpgEven beyond all of these benefits, starting my morning with a run means that the day begins with a concrete accomplishment. The accomplishment won’t get me the full-time job that I desperately need, it won’t win me an award, and it won’t matter to other people in general. Still, the effects of morning runs are real. I have not had a truly “bad day” since I began running in the morning. Logging miles makes the other items on my to-do list seem more manageable. Additionally, I have found myself thinking, “Whatever. I rocked out eight awesome miles this morning” as a way to cope with mishaps that arise throughout the day.

How do my early morning ways impact my experience with the Boston Marathon? Since starting the training schedule, I have had to adjust the time of my long runs until later in the morning so that I can eat and digest a big breakfast. The marathon itself will also be a mid-morning/early-afternoon affair. As a proud representative of the very last corral (9) of the very last wave (3) of Boston Marathon entrants, I will probably not be toeing the starting line until after 11 a.m. on race day.

I am interested to see if running at a different time of day will affect my performance in the Marathon. Fortunately, paying attention to the Polar RCX3 has assured me that running a few hours later than usual will not have a negative impact on my heart rate—in fact, I have had a slightly easier time getting my heart rate up on later runs (this week, for example, I logged 161 and 162 on runs from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 166 on a run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.).

Regardless of what happens in the actual Marathon, running in the morning will always be part of my lifestyle. Running has provided me with a way to embrace the morning (and the rest of my day) without developing the overly cheerful persona of a high school student on the announcements.

Have you experienced morning run euphoria? When do you most enjoy running?

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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