It’s 6.30am on a chilly Monday morning as burnt-out 9-5ers begin to rise, then reach for their kettles and cereal boxes – the start of a long week. But for one group of people, the day is already an hour old.

For them, 7am constitutes a sleep in, their alarms ring at 5.30am and their days start with an exhausting, pain-inducing exertion of energy. And what’s maddest of all – they do it by choice, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

They’re the runners – the ones out early pounding the pavement to keep fit and clear their minds. And they will try to convince you that running is actually enjoyable and something they look forward to.

I used to roll my eyes, imagining the pain and horrors of waking any earlier than 15 minutes before I needed to be out the door. But I am now one of them. Over the last couple of years running has become something I look forward to from the previous night as I set my alarm and head to bed.

High sugar foods and drinks were my go-to source of energy whenever life was getting stressful, or I’d had a poor night of sleep but couldn’t afford to lie down and relax. It wasn’t uncommon for me, feeling overwhelmed by my to-do list, to stop by IGA on the way home and pick up a packet of Tim Tams – not to share, but to have to myself that night as I ploughed through work. And sugar-laden cola was of course needed, as the caffeine would keep me awake.

Nowadays, however, I’m 40 kilograms lighter and draw on another source for my energy and stamina. It’s signalled by the vibrating of my alarm as it forces me out of bed. I tie up my sandshoes and head out for the track in the bushland behind our house. These morning runs are my new Tim Tams and cola.

However, unlike the junk food, running leaves me feeling good. Nay – fantastic, elated. Without a doubt, it leaves me feeling infinitely better than the sense of guilt and self-disgust after devouring half a day’s worth of calories in two hours.

I look forward to the wind blowing through my hair as I sprint between the signpost and the large gum tree. I breathe in deep the fresh morning air and scents of the native plants in the national park. I crave the satisfaction of managing to get just a little further than yesterday’s run and setting new targets. On the way to work, I get my headphones out to listen out for upbeat songs, adding them to my running playlist.

And now, there’s a spring in my step as I board the 6.38am bus, hair still wet from the dip in the pool I’ll take before getting dressed for work. I can’t help but notice my fellow passengers, still rubbing sleep from their eyes, looking beaten already, the way I used to feel before I discovered the wonders and benefits of running.

Best of all – it’s not a temporary high that will wear off by lunch, it’s a hit that will last all day. When I’ve been for a run, I’ll pass the day productively, I’ll make healthy food choices and I’ll feel good about myself, my relationships benefit.

That’s something sugary biscuits and drinks will never deliver.

Do you go out for a morning run?

Feature image: Scene from London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

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