Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Run Commute

Yesterday's run is one I won't soon forget.  With one of our cars on the fritz, we were juggling child care drop off plus two jobs (all in very different directions) with one vehicle.  To help alleviate some of the logistics, I told my husband that I'd just run home from the train station, eliminating one stop from his route.  He laughed and teased me saying, "Why don't you just run all the way home?"

"Because I don't want to die trying to cross the interstate," I told him.  I was thinking like a driver, not a runner, and I couldn't picture a way to cross the highway safely.  Then I started thinking like a runner and remembered a pedestrian bridge that crosses the highway.  Maybe running home could work after all...

Aerial view of the Hampton/I-64 interchange.  Who wouldn't want to run through this completely-void-of-sidewalks area during rush hour?
I spent the morning hemming and hawing about my options (and working, too!  I promise!).  If I ran home from the train, it would be an easy 2 miles along routes that I travel all the time.  I could add a few extra miles, but they'd be on the same sidewalks I've traversed for years.  On the other hand, if I ran all the way from work, it would be nearly 7 miles along a route I've never run before.  I've been hesitant to break out of my old, familiar routes, so this was my chance to push myself to try something new.

Did I mention that I'm not an afternoon runner?  That it was 77* when I left?  That I've never run more than 5 miles on a weekday?  Go big or go home.  Or in this case, go big to get home.

I planned to leave at 4:00, and I expected to get home around 5:15, allowing time for stop lights, traffic, and water breaks.  At 3:56, my co-worker pointed out the radar, which showed an enormous storm system in Chesterfield ~ 15 miles away.  Knowing that she's a weather expert, I asked if she thought I had time to make it home before the storm unleashed.  "Run fast," she told me.  "It's going to hit around 5:00."

I scrambled out the door, feeling surprisingly fresh for having worked a full day.  I enjoyed running through Forest Park, a popular running route in St. Louis that I had never tried out before.  I found the pedestrian-friendly bridge across I-64 and happily ran through Dogtown.  The sky was cloudy but not threatening, and though the temperature was hot, I was running joyfully and strong.

Around mile 3.5, my little web of happiness began to unravel.  I was approaching the Hill neighborhood and a passing train forced me to stop.  A welcome break for my legs, but as I stood watching the train, I felt the temperature drop radically and noticed an ominous sky just to the west.  I checked the time: 4:32.  I needed to keep moving if I wanted to get home before the storm broke.

Photo courtesy a viewer on
I was too concerned with getting home before the lightning started to snap my own pic, but this was my view as I waited for the train to pass.

Fortunately, it was a short train, and I was soon clambering up the steep incline that gives this famous neighborhood its name.  However, as a gentle rain began to fall, a precursor to the real storm, I started to regret my decision to go big.  I had come a long way and still had far to go.  I was tired, hungry, and just wanted to be finished.  Rather than descend into a spiral of self-doubt, I reminded myself to focus on my form ("long, tall, strong," I repeated ad nauseum), and I started counting down the neighborhoods until I'd be home: the Hill, Northampton, Southampton, then finally Princeton Heights.

The rain picked up around mile 6, but I had made it to a stretch of road that Emily and I run almost every time we lace up.  I checked the time again: 4:54.  "Keep going, Kate.  One mile to go."  Just half a mile from my house, the sky opened up, and the rain began falling in buckets.  "Earn your finish, lady."  I ran as fast as my legs would move, feeling strangely free as the sheets of rain drenched me.  I dashed up to my house and checked the time as I stopped my GPS: 5:02.

Dripping wet, I stood on my back porch and marveled at what I had done: I broke through my new route phobia, ran at an unusual time of day, and outran the lightning.  Badass doesn't even begin to capture the intensity of my emotions as I wrung the water out of my hat and watched the rain pelt our backyard.  I set out to do something hard, and I did it, excelling far beyond what I imagined I could do.  I'm so grateful that running helps me to push past my imagined boundaries, set and achieve new goals, and become a more balanced wife/mother/friend in the process.