“Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.” — Walt Whitman

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”—Bernard Williams

“Running in the morning has me appreciate all the choices that come later in the day. The choices I make after running seem healthier, wiser and kinder.” — Deena Kastor

I never used to be a morning person. At least not a morning runner. I often got up early (especially after my daughter was born), but I rarely felt inspired enough to run early. And yet, I ran almost every day.

Now I run early in the morning every chance I get, and I’d recommend it to everyone I know. There’s something very energizing and rejuvenating about forcing yourself to get out of bed earlier than you normally might just so you can see the sunrise. But only those who dare skimp a bit on their slumber ever really know that. As a runner, it’s especially rewarding because it means you’re using your own power to rise with purpose and be present in the new day.

Starting a run before the sun begins to rise can be a majestic experience with extraordinary sensory engagement if you allow it. When you begin, your eyes and ears are your primary guides amid the low-light conditions. Initially your brain tells your eyes to focus on every step so as not to stumble on hidden obstacles in the dark. If you listen closely, you can hear things you might not typically notice amid the hum of a typical mid-day run—a dog barking a few blocks away, deer scurrying out of the brush, the sound of your shoes impacting the ground or even a train whistle in the distance. But the moment the day starts to break and you’re not relying on sight and sound as much, your other senses start to kick in. As you begin the natural process of welcoming the new day—and depending on where you are running—you might notice the earthy smell of wet soil, the sweet scent of the grass or the rich aroma of pine trees. You might even taste the subtle but distinctive flavor of damp morning air. And, without notice, your body starts running by feel and your foot placements—whether on a trail or a road or sidewalk—become automatic and involuntary.

When the sun finally rises, make it a point to pause, soak in the view and salute the sun. (With some basic planning, you can coordinate that moment to be at a specific point on your run—like a local hilltop, your favorite trail or an open field—so you can make the most of it.) The sunrise represents hope, optimism, rejuvenation and the continuation of life, and it can remind you what you believe in and what’s important to you. While you don’t need to make it an overtly metaphysical or spiritual moment, there’s great satisfaction in welcoming a new day in such a primal way without the usual distractions of the morning—i.e., the urge to make coffee, the morning news, emails, etc. If nothing else, it’s the sign of a clean slate, a way to leave yesterday behind and make the most of the coming day. And that’s especially true if you’re a runner engaged in your daily affirmation of putting one foot in front of the other.

Think I’m soft, sentimental and too sleep-deprived? Perhaps so. I know some people value their sleep as much as anything in their lives. But there are some who take the perspective that waking up an hour early is the chance to live an hour more.

Get up just once this week and run as the sun rises and it might just change your perspective—about that day, about your running, about everything.

A view from a morning run up Mt. Sanitas in Boulder, Colorado. Photo: Brian Metzler