You run early, alone. Often it’s like this- running is a solitary sport, at heart. The sun has risen now and you’ve showered. Maybe you wrap a towel around your hair like me, get halfway dressed then fill a pot on the stove so the water will heat while you decide what to wear for the rest of the day.
This is that in between space, now, after you’ve showered off, put on something dry, stretched out… this is that pocket of time that emerges right at the point when you feel like you might rather lie down and go back to sleep… but instead, you grind coffee beans. They release their scent as they become smaller and smaller until you can pour them gently into your coffee pot, your french press, whatever. Let the hot water soak over the grind and create that delicate, glossy liquid, an addiction of sorts turned into a ritual.
Find your favorite mug. Pour. Sit down and look out the window. Breathe.
Maybe this moment, this cup of coffee gives you space to contemplate the nagging ideas in the back of your head. Maybe it provides an accompaniment to the pages you’re reading or a project you are creating. I love combining this moment with music, old-school French classics or maybe something with more of a beat to amp me up for the day.
For too many of us, coffee becomes a quick sip before rushing out the door, a thoughtless routine because in the rush of life you’re searching only for the caffeine. When you can really sit down and enjoy it, though, the experience is amplified and refreshing enough to energize your entire day.
with your run crew
We are grimy customers. Covered in sweat or rain, sometimes the snot that somehow ended up on our sleeves. We might change into drier clothes, or don jackets with the dates and sponsors of our most recent races. Boston blue and yellow, New York’s statue of liberty, arm held high. Numbers are plastered across our t shirts, water bottles and conversations- 26.2, 13.1, 100k, 100 miles. We swarm, en masse, into the coffee shop whose employees have grown to expect us. The ladies who wear their hair back tightly beneath the bills of their hats run this place like a ship in the morning. They know our names and orders by heart. This is Texas, now, so sometimes they call us honey or sweetheart.
We wrap our hands around paper cups (or reusable mugs, for the more eco-friendly among us) as the sky fades from ink to slate, illuminating the faces of those we’ve spent our morning with, previously invisible in the dark. Steam rises from our cups and the addictive scent of morning across the world wafts around us, nearly tangible. Slow jazz hovers in the background.
On these early mornings we are given the occasional eyeball by the businessman who has obviously never been here on a midweek morning at dawn when we take over the center table, and is giving us sideways glances for the half hour we spend catching up with each other. Maybe he’s concerned for us, half of our group in the throes of marathon training and thus eliciting concerned glances anyway for our starved appearances. I once heard someone joke that you knew someone’s training was going well when he looked like he was on his deathbed.
Runners are a welcoming crew, and nowhere is this so evident as when they are collectively enjoying a relaxed post-run cup of coffee. Bathed in the happy afterglow of a good workout with friends and fueled by jet-black espresso in a variety of forms, we are more jovial than one is expected to be at that hour.
It sets us up for the day, and as we part we wave and grin, sweat dry and hearts full.
The purpose of running when you’re traveling changes. It’s not about the daily grind, the routine and dedication of training, but exploration. Finding new things. Running takes you through a city like nothing else.
But humans are creature of habit and if you’re accustomed to a post run coffee in your hometown, you’ll likely seek it out across the world. You might run past a bistro or deli and decide to end your run there, taste a local pastry and enjoy a new view while you sip whatever coffee is commonplace. In Italy perhaps the morning drink is a cappuccino, or perhaps you’re somewhere where it’s not even coffee but mint tea, and this is your new routine for the duration of your stay, this open-minded morning drink ritual where you sit and observe passerby or converse with locals. One of my favorite memories takes place in Oaxaca, where we actually sat down before our run and enjoyed coffee with cinnamon in it, bowls of fruit and sugar-sweet conchas. Our whole group kept our hands wrapped around our mugs to push the morning mountain cold away from our fingertips, chatting about life in English and Spanish.
We were fully present, entirely immersed in the moment. Nothing else mattered because we were focused completely on the now.
The post run coffee, I believe, is a representation of a pause, a respect for the run and the work you’ve done, an appreciation of the time spent and the moment after and the miracle of your body. It’s not just about the coffee (though I’m biased and a solid cup of delicious coffee is hard to beat). It’s about the time you spend with your eyes open, the people you share your table with, the breath you find when you are embraced in the now and not rushing onto the next thing.
I find magic in the simplicity of coffee after a run.