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Five reasons why it’s great to get back into the habit of very early morning runs.


Oh, the bizarre hedonsim of groggily wrestling with the off button on your alarm at 5:00 AM.

Sometimes it’s easy, and you pop out of bed like Polyanna on speed, ready to greet the day with a bright wholesome grin on your face, having anxiously anticipated this moment since the instant your head hit the pillow last night.

But yeah, that whole joyfully-springing-out-of-bed thing isn’t the norm, even if you’re habituated to the early wakeups.

More commonly, you experience about three dreadful seconds of the worst feeling in the world, as you come to terms with the fact that you’re being ripped rudely into consciousness by what is surely the most obnoxious cell phone alarm in the universe. In fact, the imminent insult of extracting yourself from your toasty sleepnest to suit up and put away 12 miles before the sun even considers dragging it’s big lazy yellow butt out of bed is enough to make you want to pulverize your alarm clock into a fine powder and then throw it in some unsuspecting gym grunter’s protein shake just out of spite and anger at the world.

If you’re one of the stoic AM runners’ crowd, you’ve crafted the habit of battling back against the “three dreadful seconds,” and have reigned in the instinctual response of chucking your jingling phone against the wall.

I’m one of the AM people. Are you?

People ask me often how we do it, and I don’t have an answer. Why we do it, however, is easier to get a handle on.

1. We don’t want to miss anything. Tucking runs into the morning lets us be more spontaneous in the afternoon. Who wants to miss the fun? Not us. Because let’s face it, if we’re Type A enough to run religiously in the morning, you can bet your pillow-wrinkled face that running takes top priority over lots of other things that might pop up in the afternoon in the event that we miss our early run.

Drawback: Yeah. If we’re waking up at 5, we can’t be out all that late. But we can rage until 9pm! Maybe even 10, if we’re feeling dangerous.

2. As Marie would say, we can pretty much sleepwalk through the first few miles. Sleeping + running = two favorite activities, and who doesn’t enjoy multitasking?

Drawback: When we have to start running 15 minutes after semi-waking up, we are only physically capable of running about as fast as an infant for the few first miles. Kinda wrecks your average split.

3. We enjoy occasional opportunities to brag about it. AM runners take a kind of masochistic pride in getting it done. And we secretly enjoy those moments when others pry enough into our lives to discover that we ran X miles that morning. They might gaze admiringly, gasp and fawn over us. It embarrasses us, but we feel temporarily special.

Drawback: Yeah, at 2:30 PM we don’t feel special anymore. We just feel like napping.

That's the view from my bedroom window during the day. That's not the view from my bedroom window at 5 AM.

4. Certain challenges of running seem easier to face in the dark. Pouring rain? No big deal, can’t even see it. Monster hills? Can’t see those either.

Drawback: Ice? Shoot, feels like my feet and butt found it before my eyes did. And, an additional fun fact: When you are prone to attracting wildlife with the frequency of Snow White, every dark shadow will look like a bear, which means you’ll be sticking to roads rather than trails on dark AM runs. Bummer. Because, while yes, you know how to use a headlamp, you’d rather not meet up with Mama Griz at a time of day when your reaction time and visual aptitude roughly match that of a slug.

5. There’s no time to think about it. All it takes to get out the door for a morning run is deciding, “Yes, I will swing my feet out of bed and put them on the floor.” We never regret morning runs. We almost always regret skipping them and spending the whole work day feeling fidgety, anxious, tired, and annoyed that we gave into the three seconds of dread just to get an extra couple hours of sleep that morning.

Coincidentally, I’m doing the 5 AM wakeup thing tomorrow like usual, so I’m just going to press publish and head to bed, if you don’t mind.

Really, what are some other reasons that early morning runs rule?

Are you an early runner, or an afternoon/evening type? And if you run in the afternoon, how can you STAND waiting that long? I’d love to know. Waiting until the end of the day to run makes me craaaanky.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/10/2010 02:25

    Not only am I a morning runner, I’m one of those odd people that does NOT own an alarm clock. I spring out of bed Tigger style sometime between 5-6 everyday. Even on the weekends when I want to sleep. What else would I do in the morning besides run?

    Morning runs rule because it’s cooler (I live in South Florida), there’s way less traffic (downtown), and it frees up my evenings for important stuff. Like drinking wine.

    • 09/10/2010 20:43

      You know, for all my alarm-hating in this post, I wake up 10-15 minutes before pretty consistently and end up not having to hear it anyway. Unless I’m really behind in sleep, in which case, alarm-clock pulverization ensues. SO cool that you don’t even need an alarm for that extra bit of insurance. Morning runs are alllll about freeing up the evenings!

  2. 09/10/2010 02:58

    Morning runner all the way!

  3. 09/10/2010 04:16

    i’m a late morning runner all the way. unfortunately the work world doesn’t agree that it’s the best time to run so i run in the early mornings. i also work pretty late and i’d be scared to run at 10pm!

    • 09/10/2010 20:46

      Smart to be leery of a 10pm run; too many shady characters around in certain parts of a big city.

  4. Lacey permalink
    09/10/2010 04:44

    i am an afternoon/evening runner. i’ve tried early morning … once or twice. and it always feels great after it’s over!!!!!!!!!!!!! the shower before work is a perk, too… otherwise i roll out of bed and head to the office… with very little in between the two. heh. i think it’s nice to have “done it” already for the entire rest of the day. the reason i don’t default to early workouts is b/c i have a LOT of trouble sleeping and need the flexibility to sleep until 7. 2 hours is a big difference in the grand scheme of things.

    • 09/10/2010 20:47

      Two hours IS a huge difference! When I’m really in the hole on sleep, it does me so much better to just sleep in, regroup, and run later.

  5. 09/10/2010 07:03

    You know, this makes me want to do a list of why I run in the afternoon or evening, but for the life of me…I can’t think of a good reason.

    Other than the fact that early morning runs don’t agree with my digestive system. Which always makes early AM races a challenge. But that’s fodder for another post….

    • 09/10/2010 20:52

      YES, make a list, make a list! I WANT “late” runners to give me a list of pros, so that I can feel more excited about afternoon runs on the occasions that my morning runs don’t happen. And I totally get you on the GI stuff. I tend to become an expert on route portapotties/bathroom situations or I plan a loop back to the house early on in the run. It doesn’t help that I literally roll out of bed, chug 3/4 of a Nalgene worth of water, and leave the house 7-10 minutes after waking up. Oops. I’m on the verge of overshare, here

  6. 09/10/2010 07:42

    i used to be strictly a morning runner for all the reasons above. lately i usually run after work… cause it has been sooo hard to get up. i am serious. one day i went to bed at 6:30 when i got home from work! and still couldn’t get up to run… it helps that i don’t have a social life haha, no evening activities to miss out on.

    as for my flats – they are the saucony grid type a2’s. i think they are now on version “a4” found here –***4********10081-1*M095&productId=4-103830&catId=cat10002
    well hopefully that link works. i bought them back in ’08 and ’09 before they changed the color scheme, but i think you can still get the fun red some places online.

    • 09/10/2010 21:00

      I get into phases of afternoon workouts occasionally, too, even when I’d rather be AM-ing it up. Grrrr, I wish shoe companies wouldn’t update to newer stuff so frequently. Those flats are slick.

  7. 09/10/2010 08:47

    Whoa, I worked out at 5:30 this morning. For the first time. Get out of my head, Charles.

    • 09/10/2010 21:02

      I had to look that quote up for cultural frame of reference because I live under several rocks.

      But when you said Charles I just immediately associated it with Boston ‘cuz its you.

      Also… July 31st. C’mon.

      • 09/12/2010 17:15

        It’s kind of a dated reference, especially in internet terms. I just love“>Patrick Stewart on the internet

        And a new post, yay! I hope it’s all you ever wanted in half-assed audio bitching.

  8. dubay319 permalink
    09/10/2010 09:16

    EWW way to early to get up .

  9. 09/10/2010 11:31

    early morning running or swimming=the best!
    you feel SO good the rest of the day (well except for between 2:30-3:30…that’s a really hard hour for me!) but when I get home from interning at 5pm I love that I can sit on the couch for an hour knowing that I already killed a great workout that morning!
    whoop whoop for mornings! haha! love this post you just pumped me up!

    • 09/10/2010 21:04

      You summed it up perfectly. When I say I like the luxury of afternoon spontaneity and that I “don’t want to miss the fun,” I really mean I just like feeling entitled to coming home and flopping down on the couch with a snack.

  10. Murdoch permalink
    09/11/2010 03:49

    I can do an easy 3 or 4 but never just roll out of bed super early for a long run. The last time I ran at 5AM I felt like I was going so fast but it turns out I was like 30 secs a mile slower than normal haha. Thats another drawback- running in the dark in general makes you feel like you’re running 5:00 pace (i think because you don’t have a lot of reference points for how fast you really are traveling).

    • 09/11/2010 08:12

      I like that observation about speed perception + not having a lot of reference points in the dark. The only way I ever run well in the morning is by telling myself that the first two miles WILL be shuffling. I learned not to get frustrated with that. It is sort of satisfying to negative split on every single run.

  11. 09/11/2010 18:12

    this post is hilarious!!! you’ve just made my day 🙂

    i always run right before dinner. i’ve tried running in the morning, but it’s just too hard on an empty stomach. at the same time, i find it hard to exercise when i’ve just eaten. (as you see, i’m a bit high maitenance.) i can imagine the pride that comes along with an early morning run though. i get that way when i run hills or run in the rain. makes me feel like a bad-azz.


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