I had a few things going against me this morning:
1. The drunk college students are back, and their whooping and hollering from the street below woke me up and kept me up till way after the bars closed.
2. Around that time I was noticing a twinge in my knee that didn't feel quite right, so I got up to put an ice pack on it.
3. As I left my apartment building at 7:30, I was surrounded by that familiar smell: The Great Dismal Swamp was still burning and its smoke had wafted this way. It was thick.
But as I stood on the sidewalk stretching, I was surprised by this little squirrel who came up right beside me, did a little dance around me and then scooted off. In my mind, the little guy was saying, "Don't worry, it's going to be a great run!" (Yes, I'm aware the squirrel wasn't actually talking. And, actually, as soon as I thought about the above sentiment and hit "start" on my watch, I realized he could have been saying, "Go back home! The run is going to be horrible! Save yourself!")
But off I trotted.
The first three miles, well, let's just say I think I did have the endurance but I was choking on a mixture of humidity and smoke. There was a point around mile 3 where I thought I'd have to swing into the Walgreens to get out of the smoke and catch my breath. It was getting hard to breathe. But as soon as I passed the store and entered a new neighborhood, the air felt much better. The rest of the run wasn't nearly as bad. I was thrilled I was able to complete 7 miles without pain, without blisters and at a faster pace than last week's long run.
It was nice to run without the iPod, to think about things and people and memories.
And at 8:46 a.m., and again at 9:03, as the church bells tolled, I removed my hat, held it to my heart and continued to run.