May 27, 2018

Little Details

Running in circles

Oct. 20, 2011

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper



It’s 5 a.m. My alarm pierces early morning darkness. I silence the auditory intruder, not wanting to wake my husband.

To run, or not to run? That is my question. Bargaining with the clock, I resolve to rest five minutes more — I lay in bed for ten. My mind scrolls through the upcoming day as I anticipate my commute, meetings at the office, dinner and prepping for the course I teach. Free time and the laundry nudge for attention.

Emerging from my slumberous state, I extract myself from bed to survey the blackness outside my window. Running clothes, laid out the night before, wait expectantly. I slip into gear, tuck my driver’s license into my right sneaker — identification is a good thing — and grab a flashlight.

I stretch still-sleepy limbs before slipping out the front door. My jaunt takes me along Old Stage, Mountain View and North Williston roads before hanging a right onto Williston’s Recreation Path to circle home. Forty-five minutes later I’m fully awake. I skim the ever-thinner Burlington newspaper and jump in the shower to face my day.

Running is my exercise, my addiction and my meditation. Running is my penance for the ginger cookies I munch while tapping on my keyboard amid endless cups of English Breakfast Tea. Running is my portable gym — I take sneakers on vacations, jogging past castles and along rivers flowing with foreign names; Vistula, Thames or Taff. Running affords time and space for reflection as my sneakered feet follow a somewhat rhythmic beat.

I am not one of those sleek-muscled marathoners who glide like graceful gazelles. My pace is slow; my style lacks athletic chic. Pumping middle-aged musculature is about seeking balance — physical and emotional. I run most mornings, caving only to inclement weather and the occasional bout of pure, unabashed laziness.

Serious running friends compete in marathons, half-marathons and 10ks.  Competition provides motivation to train harder, faster and better. I run because I like to. My sole competitor is myself. Just finishing is an achievement.

I have a rain rule. If it’s already raining, I forgo a run. If rain is threatening, I take a chance. I have an ice rule, too. Snow is fine; ice is to be avoided.

Early morning runs are the best. Sparse human activity promotes relative anonymity. That said, early bird exercisers are generally a friendly bunch. We greet each other as we pass, mere apparitions in semi-darkness.

Wildlife sightings add a nice twist. Rabbits crisscross my path. Moist mornings require navigating around squishy worms, slugs and the occasional snail I might overlook with an unintended crunch!

This time of year, my path is lighted by moonlight or a constellation of bright, shiny stars, piercing the black-blanketed sky. Sometimes a branch rustles behind me. Adrenaline rises and dissipates as I reassure myself, “It’s only the wind.”

Running feels safe. I’ve had one official “run-in” since starting my regimen two years ago — with a skunk. The black and white rodent emerged from the tall grass and stood in my path. I swerved around, ran a few feet, and turned to notice it running after me. I growled instinctively and bared my teeth. It growled back and ran into the grass. It’s good to know I’ve a good growl when I need it. Happy running!


Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at or

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