The alarm chirps at 5 a.m., and my running partner chirps right along with it. I groan and put the pillow over my head.
I am not a morning person. Not only that, but I do not understand the ones who are. At all. My wife of six years happens to be one. I still do not understand them.
The night/morning looks crisp and clear. Dark, too. I manage a grin. She's still talking over in the other bed with a friend. The three of us bunked for the night. The starting line is two blocks away.
The debates start right away, both in my mind and between me and my two female roommates for the night.
(On a side note, just to show you our commitment to the sport, Kate and my running partner's husband barely batted an eye when we said we were going to stay in a hotel room that night. Yes, the third friend being there helped, but 95 percent of that was because WE HAD A RACE THE NEXT DAY. I mean, duh, we wouldn't let a stupid thing like sex keep us awake before a big half marathon. We were asleep by 10 p.m.).
Hat? No hat? Long sleeved shirt or short sleeved shirt? Oatmeal? Banana? How much water should I drink? Carry a goo or hope they have it on the course? When should we leave?
I flip on the TV and race around the channels for a weather report. We finally call the front desk for the temperature. 40 degrees. Ooooo. Perfect.
I ditch the hat at the last second, rub Body Glide over my toes and body, bring gloves and a goo, stick the iPod Shuffle on my shorts, and we head out. It's chilly and my teeth start to chatter.
The sun has just started to light the sky. We crunch in the crowd of 10,000. Runners chatter. We bump and grind our way near the front. Some giggle. Others stare straight ahead with glass eyes, preparing their minds to blot out the pain that awaits.
My teeth stop chattering as the collective body heat of 10,000 fit machines warms me.
God, I feel good.
Why do I run? The races. And the priceless moments before they begin.
P.S. Today I ran the Denver Half Marathon and beat my own personal best by three minutes, finishing in 1:47. My pace was 8:08 per mile. I was thrilled when I (finally) crossed the line. I'm no elite runner, finishing 487/3877 and 77/286 in my age group, but I was happy.