1. Set your alarm for 5:15 AM or whatever time you want to drag your sorry ass out of bed. Double check that you have indeed set it for AM at least twice because you don't trust your sleep-deprived, toddler-parenting brain. And being wakened by your 3 year old at 7 when you need to leave the house at 7:35 does not bode well for the rest of the day.
2. Wear as much of your running attire to bed as possible. Typically this is (thick, knee-high) socks, running tights, and tee. Your husband will of course appreciate the sheer sexiness of this ensemble. After your alarm successfully goes off, put sweats over tights (because it WILL be fucking cold.) Squeeze yourself into a sportsbra and throw on a sweatshirt or fleece. Put a waterproof layer on top in the event of snow or sleet. Put on shoes and tie them. With a double knot. Because ice provides enough challenges for those of us who are clumsily inclined. (THIS MEANS YOU.)
3. Protect your extremeties: This means a hat that you don't mind sweating in, and some sort of gloves that still allow you to open up one of those little dog poop bags and pick up shit when your dog takes the inevitable pit stop in the middle of the street at which time you will also see the only car ALL MORNING headed right towards your shitting dog.
4. Be able to see and be seen. This means remember your headlamp, dummy. Some reflective gear of some sort also does not go amiss. This will prevent the car from hitting you while your dog shits and prevent you from hitting black ice at full tilt. Usually.
5. Last, put your RoadID, NikeSportBand and Ipod in proper locations on your body. Wonder briefly why you have so many electronic crutches to run. Then decide you don't really care.
6. Take a deep breath and try not to recoil when that first blast of icy air hits your face. Tell yourself, "This is going to be fun!" Almost believe it.
7. Get in a good warm up while you wait for your dog to pee. Do some lunges, some side-to-sides, high kicks and whatever else feels good. Briefly hope that no one is watching you as you probably look like a total dork.
8. Start running. Spend the first couple minutes hating this, wishing you were still in your warm bed snuggled up to your kid. But then notice how your ipod is picking great songs. As your body gets warm and approaches 'cruising altitude,' (meaning that you don't have to purposefully tell your legs to move forward anymore), start to think about shit that went down yesterday/last night/last year/when you were 7. Take this time to process what's been bugging you. Think about the future. Think about your husband, your kid, that book you're reading for book club, whether there will be enough snow for snowshoeing this weekend, what you're going to make for dinner.
Feel how strongly your heart beats in your chest, how your legs carry you over snow and ice, how warm your core is while your cheeks and nose feel delightfully cold in comparison. Notice how bright the moon is. Start to wonder how you got so lucky that this is your life.
9. After an hour or so, approach the end of your run and feel a little sad that its almost over. Walk to cool down. Stretch. Shovel the walk if it needs it. Take some deep breaths of the cold, clear air, noticing how great it feels now that you're hot and sweating. Pet the dog and tell her "good run."
Open the door and go inside feeling exhilarated, centered, excited for a hot shower and ready to kickass all. effing. day.
10. Be thankful. Look forward to doing it all again tomorrow.