runner's high

This morning I woke to a wonderful surprise the shining sun and a nice cool breeze. Autumn has officially snuck into our lives like a thief in the night; Im just hoping she wont be too quick to run away! I planned to get an early run in before the sun began warmed the air too much; making it feel wet with each laboring breath. Who knew I would be running in near-perfect conditions (if you ask me)? I laced up my running shoes, slid my iPod around my arm, and headed out the door. The first few steps will usually be a good determination of how my run is going to go, so I always pay very close attention. This mornings first few steps were in a word: perfect. I could hear the thud of my feet bouncing on the pavement through my music, and the breeze was swirling around me making the leaves dance across the ground. Its going to be a great day!

I love running through Saijo because the air feels so clean, and the views are incredible. One of my favorite runs here takes me across a bridge near the shipping yards, and has equally awesome views of the islands of the Seto Inland Sea and the mountains. There are always bright white cranes standing in the muck of the river bed, and the occasional elderly man close beside them digging for clams complete with a bucket a rubber boots. There are seemingly endless rows of tiny fishing boats bobbing on waves, with their nets anxiously awaiting their next cast, and the flags flapping in the breeze. The smell of fish is not one Im particularly fond of, but the overall smell of the sea is such an interesting one, I have grown to truly enjoy it.

Once I finish crossing over the arching bridge, I am faced with a real treat you dont always find on a city run; a heavily tree-lined path through a tiny park. Its a joyous respite from the suns rays tickling my nose, with a dark aura; a dark, damp smell to match, and this morning the added smell of freshly cut hedges and a group of 20-or-so playing Bocce Ball. It was nice to see other smiling faces exercising in the early morning hours.

Any run in Saijo, especially when you are an American, is likely to turn some heads. I sometimes feel like quite a spectacle on my runs, but have learned to ignore that feeling, nod, and keep on going. I am sure I look fairly odd running along the country roads, looking at the beautiful flowers, both wild and in gardens, and enjoying the many shades of green of the rice fields which fade into the horizon. As odd as it may be to catch a glimpse of me running by, there are those who obviously find it quite intriguing. Some wave, some throw an occasional, Hello! my way, and some just stop to stare.

My favorite passersby are my fellow runners, few and far between, but a very welcomed sight. It seems, no matter the language you speak, runners have a way of speaking to each other as they pass. A smile, or hello, and the seemingly obligatory look of admiration lights up their face, and gives you a burst of adrenaline to keep you going just a little further.

Running for me is both something I do to stay healthy, but its also a nice quiet time for me to think about what my day may bring, or to reflect on what has been. The better I feel on a run, the more I am able to really let my mind think; some days I think more than others! When you head out the door for a run, you really never know what you may encounter, and I find that to be an exhilarating motivator to get up and get going.

I have quite a routine when it comes to run mornings, which most would find way too cumbersome just to go out and make yourself sweat, and ultimately hurt (in a good way, of course!) I have a favorite type of shorts that I now own in every color of the rainbow, and a myriad of old t-shirts that are worn to perfection that I always wear. Then there are the socks. Socks are a huge deal for anyone who is a runner. They have to be just the right fit, the right material, and the right thickness to be the perfect socks. I have more running socks than I know what to do with, and they are all a little bit different depending on the run Im heading out on. I always wear sunglasses when I run, sun or no sun because I want to protect my eyes from road dirt, and the occasional bug that may come flying in.

The ultimate running equipment for me is my iPod. I dont often leave home without it, especially when Im going for a run. There is something wildly motivating about listening to upbeat music while you are working out. I am always looking for new songs that are run-worthy; I can never seem to have enough! The current iPod I use for running has been my running buddy for the past two years now, and I dont look forward to the day she stops working- I had a scare last week, but I got her back up and running. (Score one for me!!)

Im sure many of you are not at all interested in running, and would much rather do anything but run. I totally understand that, because I myself have not always enjoyed running. People who know me well usually have a hard time believing this, but its true. Learning about the health benefits of running, and how it can help you stay on a schedule, and lighten your moods made me give running a serious chance about 8 years ago. I ended up enjoying it so much; Im still running to this day. If you arent a runner, or would never want to, I would challenge you to add a nice long walk to your daily routine. Its a simple thing that everyone can do to make him or herself a little bit healthier. It may seem like a burden at first, but in the long run, youll be much healthier and likely happier you took a few minutes out of your day for some exercise!