The alarm rips me out of sleep, 5:30a.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. My eyes open to the thought: "It's long-run-day, 12 to 16 miles."
Running alone midweek, I search for a new street or friendly dog on a leash trying to relieve boredom. Mostly, I long for weekends when miles fly by, chatting with Saturday runners.
Last Saturday, I gave it all up.
It happened in the first two miles. I often start out in pain but this was different: My pesky left knee hurt. An injured right knee postponed my participation in the Boston Marathon in 2007 (I ran it in 2008). A bad left knee made me skip the Marine Corps Marathon in 2010.
The Los Angeles Marathon 2014 is not optional. I promised Daily Pilot readers.
So, I gave up Saturday's Turtle Rock run.
"I'm going to walk," I told friends who stopped in surprise. "Knee hurts."
They surveyed the situation:
Jill: "Take the day off, no training for L.A. till August." She resumed her run.
Catherine: "I'm tired too. I'll probably walk." But she raced off.
Caroline: "Be patient, Carrie." She flew off to run circles around everyone.
John: "Are there any turtles in Turtle Rock to help me through this?"
I laughed at John, waved and continued to walk the Back Bay, feeling left out and lonesome. A mile along the path, I thought of Catherine, our Saturday spiritual leader, who tells us to "embrace a new reality." So, I erased negative thoughts and observed the natural estuary.
Staying far right to avoid swarms of speeding bikers in bright shirts, I heard songs of warblers and sparrows, admired willows, bullrush and cattails by the trail and breathed marshy morning air.
A week later I'm still walking, 6 miles today.
Jake told me to.
Away with his wife at a romantic anniversary get-away, he wasn't around when I bowed out.
Emailing later, he directed, "Check your Runner's Log to find out when knee pain happens."
I don't keep a log but I know why I missed marathons: Weekly speed-work on an all-weather track put me out of commission (too much pounding).
Lately, I ran the OC Half Marathon, Magic Shoe and Scenic 5K in the space of four weeks. My knees are fine with distance if I protect them with short steps and moderate speed. In these three races I ran hard on asphalt without enough recovery time between.
Friends often look at me knowingly and say, "You'll wreck your knees running." I tell them to read the research. Runners have less chronic knee pain than inactive people.
That said, dumb runners keep going when it hurts. Smart ones lay off. It's OK to run through the pain of that first stiff mile, but not persistent grinding of the knee joint.
In the meantime, I embrace the walk, window shopping on Seventeenth Street and enjoying views from Cliff Drive Park.
Back Bay's birdsong is still my favorite but I'll be back there Saturday, running, I hope.
Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is training to run the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun