Last week, fighting off a cold and still suffering residual back pain from leaf raking, I took it fairly easy running. And so it was on Sunday that I gazed out at the brisk November air and hungered for a nice long run.
And I got one.
I walk to the end of my short side street, and I can turn left or right. I always turn left, and start my run. It runs straight for a half mile or so, and then has a few bends before it connects with a major road. I always turn around in the same spot, before it gets dangerous due to proximity to the main road, and head back along the same road and run past my side street. This completes the first leg of my run. By now I am feeling good; the hardest part of the run is over, not in terms of terrain but in terms of willpower. My body is moving now, my brain has stopped thinking about what else it could be doing, and I've made progress - roughly 1.5 miles of progress, actually.
The next leg of my run starts as I breeze past my own road and then turn left on a different side street, which loops up a small hill. I climb the steep but short hill, and then gently descend back to the street I started on. Turning left here keeps me running further from home and really sets the stage for the second leg of my run. The hill is out of the way, and what I have now is a run alongside a big pond. This is a pro and a con ... on the nice side, it's beautiful. I often see herons, people fishing in boats, wonderful views across the pond, and my mind is at peace. On the bad side, it's a narrow stretch of road with not much room for navigation, and on windy days the breeze coming off the pond can be heavier than you'd think.
A major decision point comes during the second leg of my run. How far do I go? Once I turn around, the third leg starts -- running home. I can stop any time I want, and there's a certain perverse joy that arises from pushing further and further from home. Sunday, I ran as far as I've ever run down that road, up a really punishing hill to another main road.
I turn around and start back down towards home. This third leg begins with a steep and long downhill, which tempts me to run too fast and really pressures my legs. Soon, though, the downhill is over and I'm back by the pond. Running past the pond on the way home is always beautiful but since I know I'm running home now my body starts to think it can get away with complaining more loudly. By the time I clear the pond and enter the final third-mile or so, I'm really ready for the run to be over. The route contains a subtle uphill during that last stretch, which always feels so much worse at the end of the run than at the start.
I turn the corner and begin walking at my own side street. I push the button on the Garmin and it tells me I've done 4.25 miles.
I've run further than that, but not this year. Not only that, but the only way I've run further than that (while living here) is by tacking unnecessary loops and such onto my route. This is the core of my longest running route. If I can do this, I can do the longer version of this run.
It was with a huge sense of accomplishment that I walked up my porch steps and back into the house Sunday.