Tales of a 5am Runner


By Jen McMahon

My alarm goes off a 4:15a and I quickly get out of bed to avoid waking up my husband or the rest of my household.  I know it might sound crazy, but I never snooze my alarm clock or let it ring long. After years of dragging out my wake-up process, I’ve conditioned myself to pop out of bed right away so I don’t have the choice to flake.  I used to snooze, but now I’ve learned to set my alarm for the latest possible moment so I have just enough time to get ready and get out the door for my 5a run and there is no chance for me to waste time. Most people think I’m insane for getting up this early.  I invite people to come run at 5a and they look at me like I’m joking. I get it because getting up this early is rarely ever easy, but it is definitely always worth it.

At 5a it is dark outside and typically cold.  Depending on the run I’m doing I might even need a headlamp to avoid running through dark trails or streets.  I lead a running group that starts at 5a and it is so nice to have this group for so many reasons. Not only is this group fun, courageous, and encouraging, but the accountability of getting up early and knowing people will be there waiting for me is a huge one.  I also love knowing none of us will ever have to run alone in the dark.

While I definitely consider myself a morning person now, I wasn’t always. I used to stay up late in college and try to avoid early morning classes with the best of them. Though I do remember signing up for an early morning ROTC Bootcamp class my Freshman year. It was dark, muddy and freezing cold and I found it exhilarating!  I can’t quite explain it, but we were tired and yet we were pushed out of our comfort zone before anyone else on campus was up. I left that class everyday feeling SO accomplished and proud. I have great memories of that class. I still don’t think that alone made me a morning person. It wasn’t until many years later when I worked full time and decided to join a running group with my friend early in the morning so I could get my workout in before work that was when I became hooked. I would get up super early, drive across town to run and then get ready for work at a nearby 24 Hr Fitness and do it all again the next day. #worthit

One of my favorite parts about running before the sun comes up is the peace and quiet we experience in the early mornings.  There is no traffic, no noise, no hustle and bustle. It is just us and our path. We get a better glimpse of the stars and in the wintertime I always see Orion’s belt and sword in the sky.  As time goes by on our run, the neighborhoods and beaches start to wake up a bit. We notice cyclists start to pop up along the bike path, walkers on the strand, and surfers heading toward the water with their surfboards.

Depending on the time of the year, we may or may not get a sunrise within the 5 o’clock hour, but during this time of year (spring and summer) we do and it is magical.  As we’re running we get to witness the sun coming up over the mountains or buildings beyond before most people are even out of their beds, much less on the road.  If we are running along the ocean, we start to see the colors of sunrise reflect along the water and in the clouds and it is stunning every single time. Everyday I take a picture as if it were the first time I noticed; I probably have hundreds of these beautiful sunrise pictures that don’t even do it any justice.  If we’re lucky, we even get to see the dolphins up and greeting us and showing off; it is almost as if they know we’re watching. As a girl who grew up in Arizona, the views and scenes at the beach never get old. Just one look at those dolphins surfing the waves and I’m like a kid in a candy store, just giddy and excited over seemingly little. We watch for a moment in awe and then continue on our run feeling so fortunate to have witnessed it.

Once we finish our run, whether we focused on speed, hills or took our time on a beautiful trail, it is always a little sad for it to come to an end.  We stretch and cool down as the world is waking up around us and starting their day. As much as I truly enjoy my morning run with my running crew, there is something amazing about that feeling of accomplishment of being done with a workout by 6a or 7a that is motivating and a little addicting.  I didn’t always appreciate the early mornings, but I’m so glad I found them. Even if you’re not a morning person yourself, I hope you’ll join me for a run someday and see the world from this perspective. I love being able to look back and feel so proud of myself for prioritizing my health and fitness first thing in the morning; it makes me feel liberated and in charge of the rest of my day.