As a runner, I crave consistency. I try to eat the same things before runs, do similar warmups, eat the same things at roughly the same time during the run.

It's not always possible, of course. Navigating training and family life means making sacrifices along the way. Still, there's usually some semblance of routine in even the most discombulated days.

And then there was this morning.

I was set for a 18-mile run. For reasons beyond all control, I had to be out the door by 6 a.m. to make it happen.

At 5:30 the radio pops on. I grunt. I slap the snooze. I close my eyes.

My wife is better than I; she pops out of bed to do her own workout downstairs. Seven minutes later, the radio pops on again. I grumble, but I get up.

But there's not time to eat before I go, not much time for stretching. I hurriedly shake the sleep from my head, slip into my running gear and, 15 minutes later, run onto my street and out for my run.

It's not pretty. I haven't eaten, so I down some PowerBar early, then wash it down with a couple swigs of Gatorade. My legs feel sluggish, and the dark is wreaking havoc on my pace and depth perception. Straightaways I know aren't more than a mile or two feel endless.

Much of the time I'm wishing I'd stayed in bed, and curse the circumstances that made me deviate from my treasured routine.

But then there's a stretch that makes it all worthwhile. I'm trudging up Mannheim Avenue towards Port Republic when I look at a field to my right. It's always nice to look at, but at this point in the pre-dawn hour it's positively serene. A low blanket of fog creeps along the ground. A pinkish-orange glow is just starting to peek above the trees.

Suddenly, I'm a little glad the routine was thrown out of whack. Wouldn't want it this way every day, but for once it's not too bad.