Puppy Safety: Sleepypod ClickIt Sport Harness

puppy-safety-clickit-sport-title-image

This post contains affiliate links. To learn more about how I benefit from affiliate links, visit the Fine Print page

Ya know what happens when you spend two hours watching crash test videos involving dogs? You spend $80 on the one harness that didn’t send a test dummy flying through the air.

That’s how Bailey ended up with a Sleepypod ClickIt Sport harness.

The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru of America last month released the results of its crate and carrier safety tests. Sponsoring these tests is one of the million reasons why I love owning a Subaru and probably wouldn’t purchase any other car. It’s also what made this report so damn disappointing.

Anyway…in a nutshell, CPS crash tested some of the most popular carriers and crates used by pet owners. Just about all of them failed miserably. Crates and carriers are good to keep your pet from being a driving distraction, but very few of them will keep your pet safe should you get into an accident. Not only can your dog get hurt, but your dog can hurt you as she flies through the car.

Harnesses aren’t any better. We’ve seen this for ourselves the few times I needed to stop short while traveling with Bailey. She often slipped forward, landing in the space between the front and back seats. I hated it, but I had read in numerous places that no harnesses fully kept your dog secure during a crash. Knowing that they all sucked, we went with what worked best in terms of comfort.

That’s until I saw the crash tests.

Due to the video settings, I can’t embed them here. You can check them out for yourself using this link.

Of all the harnesses tested, the Sleepypod ClickIt Utility was the only one that kept the test dog safe in a mock accident. The ClickIt Sport was later tested and performed just as well.

Chuck usually balks when I buy something for Bailey, but he didn’t bat an eye when I told him I was adding $80 to our existing credit card debt to purchase one of these harnesses for Bailey. Thinking about the expense logically, using our existing system should we get into a car accident and Bailey survive, treating her injuries would likely cost more than $80.

Our Personal Test Run

The ClickIt Sport comes in multiple colors, but I decided to go with bright orange because this harness since it will also be used as Bailey’s hiking harness. The orange will hopefully keep her from being mistaken for a deer while we’re in the woods. Considering where we go hiking, I don’t see this as a realistic threat, but it’s good to play it safe.

The harness has two reflective strips so I decided to start using it while we jog. As you may have read in last week’s post, we try our best to be visible when we go jogging in the early morning hours. Between the reflective strips and the bright color, it should help Bailey be seen when we go running.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

My only concern was the placement of the leash rings. They’re in the back up by the shoulders. I’m a big fan of the Easy Walk, which attaches in the front. This gives me a lot more control of Bailey’s movements and generally keeps her from choking herself should she get too excited and start lunging forward. Generally, back attachments encourage pulling so they’re discouraged by science-based trainers.

In practice, though, I found that Bailey’s leash manners are good enough that I haven’t had any problems with pulling and the harness gives me more control than I had expected.

We finally got to take it for a test drive Labor Day weekend with a trip to Goodberry’s for ice cream (we went at like 8:30 hence the dark photos). Bailey doesn’t love car rides likely because she still gets somewhat car sick. She’s used to a huge range of motion that allows her to sit, stand, lay down in funny positions, and ball the seat cover into a little pillow.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

The ClickIt Sport cuts down on this range of motion, which sucks for Bailey, but it’s what will keep her safe. She can sit and lay down just fine, but she won’t be able to stand and walk around. This is fine on short trips, but we’ll have to make sure to give her more stretch breaks when we stop.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

She did get herself a bit tangled when I opened the door at our destination. She learned pretty fast and when we got home she waited patiently for me to unbuckle her.

Downsides

Like everything, it comes with a few downsides.

Price: It’s freaking expensive. Worth the price? Sure. But expensive is expensive.

Sizing: Be sure to measure your dog to ensure you get the right size. Bailey is a bit oddly shaped. She’s small for a Lab and is always too big for a medium but too small for a large. The harness can be adjusted, but I feel like you need to be an engineer to tighten and loosen the straps. There’s a video on the website, which you may have to watch like 10 times.

Leash Ring Placement: Bailey has good leash manners so this is turning out to be a minor problem for us, but dogs that are still in training with a front-clasp harness may not benefit from having the rings in the back. Changing harnesses once you reach your destination would be a raging pain in the ass. You could, in theory, put another harness over it, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about that if I were a dog.

I don’t see any of these issues existing if your dog uses just a collar or a Gentle Leader.

Final Verdict

Overall, I really like this harness. I wouldn’t use it for casual walks around my neighborhood, but it works well for jogging in the early morning. Bailey gives it a thumbs down for range of movement in the car, but I give it a thumbs up for keeping her safe. Once you get the sizing right, it’s easy to put on and easy to secure in the car. While not in our budget, it was worth the extra debt as it should hopefully prevent even higher vet bills should we get into an accident.

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

If you’re going to swing by Amazon to purchase one for your pup, do me a solid and use my affiliate link. The price is the same for you, but I get a little pocket change which I can use to spoil my dog pay my bills. Thanks!

Advertisements

#FitnessFriday: Running Gear Rundown

fitness-friday-running-gear-rundown

This post contains affiliate links. Click here to learn more about how I use affiliate links

I look ridiculous when I run.

I look ridiculous in the same way most people don’t look their best when they’re exercising. On top of that, I use an obscene amount of running gear just for a three-mile run. I’m not marathon training, so why all the gear? There’s a method to my madness, I swear.

Let’s break it down:

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

The majority of my running gear is related to running with a dog. When I run 5k races without her, I use a fraction of this stuff. I’m trying to keep us safe and I’m a responsible dog owner so all of this junk serves a purpose.

Leash

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

I hate holding things when I run. I hate when my hands get hot and sweaty. Enter the Stunt Puppy Hands-Free Dog Leash. After my brother-in-law died last year, my in-laws gave us a few of his dog things. They still have his awesome pup, Munchy, but Sean used this leash when he took her running. My in-laws take Munch on daily walks, but running they are not. Thinking I could use it, they passed it on to me. I love that it leaves my hands completely free, and I don’t have to worry about her running off while I’m picking up some poop or I’m otherwise distracted.

Some downsides: Bailey is a pretty good runner in that she doesn’t really get distracted when we’re moving at a good pace. But sometimes, she gets a whiff of something and she stops short. Dog owners know what I’m talking about. Because the leash is around your waist,  the sudden jerk to a stop can be downright painful. It’s also harder to remove the leash should you be in a situation where you need to be separated from your dog. I don’t want to be attached to my dog if she’s in a fight with another dog. Overall, though, I’m happy with it.

Poop Bags

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left poop on the side of the road. It was always because I was out of bags. I really try to never find myself without a poop bag (Click here to read why dog poop isn’t fertilizer). These holders are a dime a dozen. I got the blue one as part of a gift bag doing a 5k and I purchased the green one after Bailey first came home. I like the green one from Earth Rated because it has a little clip that makes it easier to hold a full bag, but it’s plastic and I hate how it swings around when I run. It’s been since moved to Bailey’s walking leash.

I’m a fan of Earth Rated bags because they use less plastic than the other kind. Realistically, these bags won’t biodegrade any faster than a plastic shopping bag, but they’re made with less raw material, which makes my hippy heart somewhat happy.

Running Belt

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

I initially wanted a running belt that could hold pepper spray, treats and my cell phone, but it’s really just turned into a glorified treat bag. I like buying some things online, but others I need to touch and feel. Running belts were one of them. I purchased this one from Nathan at Dick’s because I had yet to discover the awesomeness of REI and I’m sure there I could have found a better selection. It’s small and light, but large enough to hold a bunch of dog treats and my little can of pepper spray.

Treats were more of a necessity when I was teaching Bailey leash manners, but now they’re just for sporadic reinforcement of those leash manners. Now, we’re working more on staying focused when we come across people or another dog, which doesn’t happen often at 6am. I also bring a couple of large biscuit treats in case she needs something a little more high value on which to focus. If we don’t need it, I give it to her at the end of our run.

Phone Case

When I bought my running belt I was also still going to the gym at NC State. Even though I had bought it with the intention of putting my phone in it, I realized that I wasn’t going to use it if I was working out at the gym. I ended up purchasing an arm band from Sporteer. The one I have currently is made for a Samsung Galaxy4, but my new iPhone 5S fits in it just fine. I like that it zips closed to protect it from the rain, but don’t expect to get too much done pressing those buttons. The plastic is pretty thick. It’s comfortable to wear and stays in place.

Pepper Spray

Photo: After the Knot

Photo: After the Knot

Aside from the occasional break-in, my neighborhood is pretty safe from scary men in white vans. It does, however, have far too many loose dogs running around. My feelings about that could take up 3,000 words so I won’t get into it, but I carry pepper spray with me in case Bailey and I are attacked by a dog. Thankfully, I’ve never had to use it and I hope I never will.

Headlamp

energizer-head-lamp

As I’ve said a bazillion times before, I live in a neighborhood without sidewalks, which means I have to run in the street. For a large portion of the year, it’s dark at 6am. I enjoy running that early because there are so few cars on the road. Naturally, I want to make sure those few cars see me. I used to use these little blinky lights I got at the pet store, but they use one of those obscure flat batteries and I always forget to order them.

My farther-in-law happened to give me this Energizer headlamp a few months back and it does the trick. For right now I use the red-light mode as it’s not completely dark when I go running, but in a week or two, I’ll likely switch over to the flashlight mode. I attach it to the belt of my hands-free leash. It uses three AAA batteries, which don’t require any special Amazon orders. It’s a little on the heavy side compared to the other lights, but it offers way more visibility.

Harness

The one piece of running gear I didn’t talk about is Bailey’s harness. We just invested in a Sleepypod ClickIt Sport and I’ll be dedicating an entire post to it. I really like it has a running harness but have yet to take her in the car with it, which is the main reason why we bought it. Once I do that, I’ll share with you my thoughts.

 

Got a piece of running gear that you recommend? Share it in the comments. 

 

#FinessFriday: Jumping on the FitBit Bandwagon

Yup. I’ve become THAT person. That person with the fitness tracker.

I was pretty apathetic toward the FitBit when it first came out. It was interesting, but it was a gadget that was out of my price range. I also had enough things tracking my movements – RunKeeper, My Fitness Pal – and really didn’t want another one.

I changed my mind when I realized I needed more accountability. I needed more motivation. I needed something that would force me to get off my ass and take the long way to the bathroom.

After some feedback from friends, I actually decided on purchasing a tracker from JawBone*, mainly because it had a neat little alarm that buzzed at you if you’ve been sitting too long. This is absolutely key when you have a desk job and hours could easily fly by without you having moved from your seat.

Cost, however, became the ultimate determining factor. The comparable FitBit was on sale for $84 on Amazon*. Sorry, JawBone. FitBit won out only because it was $13 cheaper.

To pay for this new little gadget, I used a gift card I got from my insurance company. Blue Cross Blue Shield NC gives you the opportunity to fill out a health assessment in exchange for a $50 gift card. Sure, I’ll take $50 just for spending 20 minutes entering my health information.

Thoughts Thus Far

I got the Flex because it was the cheapest wristband and even with the gift card I was still on a budget. Like all trackers, I know it’s not entirely accurate. I think I added 200 steps when I was petting my dog.

Regardless, seeing the numbers in real time does help motivate me to move a bit more. Hitting 10,000 steps is not easy unless you consciously go for a walk or a run, which I don’t do every day. It gives me a bit of a push while I’m work, which is something I desperately need. Now, I use the upstairs bathroom and take the long way back to the office and I take at least a 10-minute walk on my lunch. I’d like to take it a step further and go for a five minute walk around the building at 11 and 4 for fresh air and added steps.

A two-mile run helped me reach my daily step goal. // After the Knot

A two-mile run helped me reach my daily step goal. // After the Knot

Setting up challenges with your friends is pretty fun and motivating, but it can also be a little discouraging. FitBit will send you little notifications when your friends are catching up to you. Sometimes I look at my phone and think, “Well, OK FitBit, would you like to write up this post about the latest cumin recall?” Generally speaking, the challenges do add a little competition, which is another nice motivator.

// After the Knot

// After the Knot

The sleep tracker is pretty interesting. I’m not entirely sure what you’re suppose to do with that data, but it’s interesting to see that I’m getting just as little sleep as I thought.

I do really like the silent alarm, which in the morning is far less jarring than the radio. Waking up to the same bad country song starts to just make me angry.

// After the Knot

// After the Knot

 

It’s definitely not perfect and there’s been plenty written lately about how the whole fitness tracker fad is just a scam. Truth is, most things related to weight loss and fitness are a scam, but we do them anyway because maybe they work for us. Maybe spending $100 a month on protein shakes helped you drop 20 pounds. Maybe those wrap things everyone talks about actually work. Maybe juicing your meals has helped you eat more vegetables after you started eating solid foods again.

So far, I’m a fan of my FitBit. I don’t LOVE it and I wouldn’t consider it life-changing, but if it helps me stick with a healthier lifestyle then I’m all for it. If it keeps me accountable and keeps me mindful of my actions, then it’s worth it.

I need all the help I can get.

 

Do you have a fitness tracker? What do you think? Love it? Think it’s overrated?

 

*This post contains affiliate links. Learn more about affiliate links here

Sometimes, Running Just Sucks

Sometimes, running just sucks.

Sometimes you just feel like crap and you want to quit and cry and stuff your face with Bojangles chicken biscuits.

Sometimes you ask yourself why the fuck you’re doing this in the first place and you feel like a damn failure.

Sometimes, running just sucks.

That’s how I felt during my most recent 5k, which, oddly enough, was to benefit an afterschool program designed to empower girls and help them grow into strong women.

I felt far from empowered.

The race came at the end of a particularly rough week, fitness wise. The holiday weekend threw off our grocery schedule and I bought lunch most of the week. The weather wasn’t too great so I only got one run in and it was only a mile before it started to pour. I got some weight training in, but the lack of sleep kept me from giving it my all. I found myself yawning and falling asleep between sets.

On top of all that, I gained back two pounds, once again putting me in this battle with the same five pounds that I can’t seem to shake.

With about 2,000 people registered for the race that included many, many children, I found myself in the front of the group with the rest of the competitive runners. Normally, I put myself towards the back because I’m slow and I guess sort of a safety hazard for people who are faster. For the sake of my emotional stability, I should have done that again.

It didn’t take long for the stroller parents to catch up, despite having started after me. I simultaneously hate and admire stroller parents. I am in absolute awe of anyone that can run while pushing a stroller. Your fitness level is something that I strive for. I was once that stroller baby, my mom carrying me and a stroller down the three flights of steps of our Queens apartment so she could go jogging.

I WANT to be the stroller pusher one day, but man, you guys really know how to make one feel like a fat piece of shit. And, it’s not your fault. This is completely my issue and my own self-consciousness and blaming you for my feeling fat and out of shape is totally unfair. Often, stroller parents are inspiring, but on that day, they were not.

Soon, after the stroller parents passed, I started to see the children run around me. There’s nothing like having a 10-year-old run past you, clearly not struggling as much as you. Even when they slow down to walk that quick sprint put them so far ahead that they’ll finish 15 minutes before you. Imagine watching dozens of kids and their parents run around you, their little legs propelling them forward.

It becomes this, “wow, I really suck” moment.

Feelings like that are pretty irrational when you think about it, but they’re feeling nonetheless, and they can have a really bad effect on your psyche as you attempt to do something challenging.

Suddenly, everything I felt bad about just came to a head. I became angry at myself for not having the discipline to eat right. I felt like a failure because by this spring I planned to be down 25 pounds to a mid-point goal, but I’ve essentially been the same weight since December.

Instead of focusing on the fact that I was running a 5k, had lost a consistent 12 pounds, and made vegetables part of my regular diet, my mind swirled around all of my failures.

As my calves burned and I tried to breathe through the third cramp in my side, I just wanted to stop. I just wanted to quit. I just wanted to say fuck it. There was no song on my playlist that could give me the bump I needed.

I kept going because I knew that I’d feel even more like shit if I didn’t. I’d end up losing it in the middle of some Durham neighborhood in front of 2,000 people and I’d feel like an ass.

Then, as I entered the last half mile, my feet started to go numb, which has never happened before and suddenly I wondered if this was some sign that I was going to pass out. I kept going, finished the race and found C in the crowd. He listened as I let out all my feelings, allowing the tears to come, thankful that my red face would hide how upset I was.

Despite how terrible I felt, my race time didn’t really suffer that badly.

I finished in 39:51 for an average pace of 12:55 per mile.

In March, I hit my best time finishing in 38:54 for an average pace of 12:32 per mile.

I wish I had some inspirational ending for this post, but I really don’t. Sometimes feeling like shit is just feeling like shit and isn’t the epiphany you need to fix whatever it is that’s keeping you from accomplishing your goal.

A day later, I don’t really feel inspired. I don’t feel like saying, “Suck it up, Monti” or any other self-affirming kick in the ass.

It’s more like, “Well, that sucked. Tomorrow is a new day. Start again and try your best.”

So, tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to start again and just try my best.

 

 

#FitnessFriday: 5k Playlist for Slowpokes

With the first 5k of 2015 happening in less than 24 hours, I had to make sure I had my music ready to go.

I’m pretty damn proud of myself for building up the endurance to run 3 miles. This is huge for me as running has never been something at which I was particularly good. I couldn’t run even when I was an active teenager barely weighing in at 100 pounds.

(I can assure you, I’m carrying a hell of a lot more these days.)

But I’m slow. Like really slow. Like old ladies power walk past me slow. Like people who walk the an entire half of a 5k still finish a good 15 minutes before me slow.

turtles in peanut butter

I average about a 14-minute mile on a good day.

I see a lot of half-marathon or marathon playlists that have a good three hours of motivating music. One of the reasons why I’ll likely never do a race longer than a 5k is because the idea of running for three hours sounds like the fifth circle of hell.

But because I’m slow, I need at least 50 minutes of music if I don’t want any repetition.

5Ks without Bailey are the only time I listen to music while I run. On our morning runs, I avoid music so I can hear oncoming cars. Bailey also works as a pretty good motivator. I may not notice if I’ve slowed down, but I can tell by Bailey’s pace or behavior if I need to kick it up a notch.

The magic beats-per-minute number seems to be between 150 and 180 and I have no idea if these songs meet that. There’s plenty of music equipment and software in my house to figure it out, but I really don’t care.

These are some of my favorite songs for blasting in the car, with the windows down while driving down the highway after a long day trapped in an office. These are the songs that make me belt out at the top of my lungs and dance like no one is watching.

5k Playlist

So, do we share any favorites? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments. 

 

#FitnessFriday: Leaving the Studio and Doing Yoga at Home

So this posting once a week thing isn’t really panning out like I had hoped. I need to take a weekend and just finish all of the half-done posts that are sitting in my drafts folder. Then I can schedule them all and pretend I wrote once a week. 

Onward…

I’ve been doing yoga on and off since 2007. I went regularly to the most amazing studio on the face of the earth for about a year until I was laid off and couldn’t really afford the cost. When I finally got another job, it was located 45 miles from home and even yoga was too much after sitting in Long Island traffic for more than an hour.

(Glowing endorsement: If you live in Suffolk, please head over to Essence of Yoga Studio. It’s absolutely everything you’d ever want in a studio. You’ll never want to do yoga any place else.)

When I moved to Raleigh I got a membership at the YMCA and began doing yoga twice a week for a little less than a year. It was great to be back at it. I only stopped when we moved to the opposite side of the county and it was no longer convenient.

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

I finally picked it up again last October when I got a membership at the NC State gym. A perk of being the wife of an NC State employee/student (or just a roommate, because that’s all you really need to be) is getting access to this amazing facility at a really affordable price. I used my membership to take yoga once a week and hit the gym sporadically.

Taking yoga classes at State, or any gym really, is kind of the opposite of what you’d get at a studio. Yoga, for many people, including myself, is more than just a workout. In a lot of ways, it’s a meditative and spiritual practice.

For example, when I run, I don’t really think about running. I think about everything. My mind is always working and processing. I have mentally written so many things while running, unfortunately, I rarely get them on paper.

When I do yoga, however, I don’t think about anything but my breathing and what my body is feeling at that exact moment. When my mind does begin to wander, it’s very easy to bring my concentration back to my breath. For an hour or two, my mind is mostly clear of distractions.

Learn more about yoga breathing known as Ujjayi breath. 

It’s a little hard to focus on my breathing when some meathead in the fitness center upstairs keeps dropping heavy weights on the floor. Or when the dance music for the Zumba class next door starts melding with the Christian music the yoga instructor has put on. Maybe I got in a good workout, but I leave there feeling empty.

Leaving the Gym

After taking a look at our finances, I decided we needed to trim down our expenses a bit. Some of our insurance premiums increased and we are starting to save money for the portion of maternity leave that won’t be covered by my short term disability policy (NOT pregnant. Just planning ahead).

I decided to save $25 a month by not renewing my membership at NC State and crowdsourced a few yoga at home options.

One of the recommendations was an iPad/iPhone app called Yoga Studio, which I downloaded for $3.99 and finally broke my paid-app virginity as everything I’ve ever downloaded has been free.

I’ve used it a few times now and I have to say that it was $4 well spent.

This is pretty much my life now. 

It has a variety of sessions that last 15, 30 and 60 minutes focusing on strength, flexibility and relaxation. What I really like about this app is the ability to build my own class. You can start from scratch or copy and edit an existing session.

I tried this feature this week and extended an existing session by an additional 13 minutes by adding more vinyasa flows and warrior combinations. I also nixed a few poses that are just too difficult right now (screw you and your reverse plank) and replaced them with others that are more at my current level.

You can copy and customize an existing session, which is what I did here.

You can copy and customize an existing session, which is what I did here.

I created a 15-minute session to tack on to my strength training routine and I plan on making a few super-short sessions for after running. This should help keep me focused while I stretch instead of half-stretching, half-looking-at-Facebook.

Doing yoga in my living room isn’t the same as Shirley’s studio on Long Island. It’s a bit more distracting and I don’t have the guidance of an experienced instructor. But, although the sessions are short, I do yoga more often now than when I was going to the gym. At this point, it’s the only New Year’s Resolution I’m actually exceeding. I don’t get home late and I don’t end my practice feeling nearly as empty as I once did.

My heart is starting to feel full again and that’s priceless.

Namaste 

 

#FitnessFriday: Running in the Dark

I decided to start 2015 off on the right foot, so on New Year’s Day I went for a run and I came to an odd realization.

I hate running in the sunlight.

I’m sorry, what?

Bailey and I typically hit the pavement by 5:50 a.m. during the week, but seeing as though I was off on New Year’s day, I wasn’t going to get myself up any earlier than my body wanted (one of the joys of currently being childless). On this particular day, we were out the door at about 10:30 a.m.

The sun was shining, and it was a brisk 38-ish degrees. It was a pretty nice day to be outside.

Our run started off almost immediately with a change in course as to avoid two wandering dogs. That was the first of many distractions Bailey and I encountered. There were other joggers, walkers with strollers, homeowners raking the leaves, speeding cars, and dogs testing the boundaries of their invisible fences.

I suddenly found myself in the midst of a dog training session that I wasn’t expecting.

The sun was at the perfect angle to hit right above my eyes, my giant forehead acting like a solar panel. I found myself squinting, which caused my mild headache to worsen. The sun, still strong despite the temperature, beat down on me and I felt hot in my long-sleeved shirt. The heat felt claustrophobic.

I was happy for the three miles to be over.

You know it, Andy.

You know it, Andy.

While petty, these little annoyances made me appreciate my runs before sunrise.

Darkness

Our next run was four days later at 5:40 a.m., a little earlier than our usual time thanks to a temporary bout of insomnia. The full moon gave us some extra light, but the stars still twinkled brightly and I spot Orion’s Belt somewhere along the way. A rooster begins to crow and early-risers warm up their cars. The distant T.V. towers more than 10 miles away blink intermittently as they transmit the morning news. My two feet and Bailey’s four paws seem extra loud as they hit the asphalt.

I listen for cars coming in the distance, but we see less than five that early in the morning. I watch Bailey for signs of distress. She usually spots something concerning before I do. Sometimes it’s another loose dog, other times it’s a pile of boxes on the side of the road.

I keep an eye out for the high schoolers walking to the bus stop, and wave to a sweet girl who always smiles when we pass. Out of habit, I look up to wave hello to the older man that sits on his porch drinking a cup of coffee. He hasn’t been there since the weather cooled, but I expect I’ll see him again soon.

Sometimes we see other runners, but their schedules aren’t as predictable and maybe they slept late that day.

We return to our driveway at about 6:25 a.m. just as the sun begins to brighten the horizon.

A view of the horizon at the end of our run. / After the Knot

A view of the horizon at the end of our run. / After the Knot

We’ll have more light as the days get longer, but even then I’ll always try to be home before the sun rises above the trees. The summer heat is oppressive and unsafe for a dog covered in a heavy coat.

I rarely feel unsafe in my neighborhood, but find that I’m always on the alert – waiting for the next car to come flying around the blind curve or loose dog to say hello. I move further into the road as I pass the occasional wooded lot and eye each darkened stranger with caution until I’m certain it’s just a neighbor going about his morning routine. funny-slow-runner-t-shirt-540x625

I thought I would find more comfort in the light. Cars can see me more easily and strangers can be identified a block away. I can see through the wooded lots and avoid the loose dogs more quickly.

But with the light comes distractions that are louder than listening for an oncoming vehicle. It’s a chorus of cars, and strollers, and dogs, and friendly neighbors, all under this blinding, heavy blanket.

Even with an eye of caution, the darkness is quiet. It’s peaceful.

And on our quiet run in the dark, I realized that I somehow learned to become OK with setting my alarm for 5:10 a.m. and heading out the door 40 minutes later.

Somehow, I learned to like running.

Somehow, in the darkness, I became a runner.