Monday, August 8, 2011

Warm summer rain

There’s always something new for me to appreciate about running. I’ve been running regularly for the past 25 years and daily for the past four years, but days like yesterday still come along when I find myself out on a run thinking, “I’ve never noticed how much I like _________ .”

In yesterday’s case, filling in the blank was “…running in a light steady rain on a warm, humid summer day.” In fact, I can’t remember a single previous time when I’ve found it really pleasing to run in the rain. Sometimes I do so grudgingly, sometimes acceptingly, sometimes miserably – I often quote Runner’s World executive editor Amby Burfoot, who in one of his books says “There is no bad weather for running. Okay, maybe 34 degrees and raining is bad weather for running.” And it seems that throughout the winter, I frequently find myself running in 34 degrees and rain. Sometimes, too, I run in the rain fearfully, as I did two weeks ago, with thunderstorms rolling in from a distance.

But until yesterday, I had no memories of not just abiding the rain but really loving the rain. Yesterday, the rain felt nourishing, cooling, soothing. The air was so warm and humid; the rain, only slightly cooler, seemed to balance out the heat. I ran four miles, a straight out-and-back down to the end of the main street off of which we live and back. When my face started to feel hot and sweaty, I ran my hands against the leaves that poked their way into the roadway and cooled off in the water; normally I try to avoid wet leaves. Normally I try to avoid puddles, too, but yesterday there was a puddle extending the width of our driveway that I simply couldn’t avoid, so with my feet wet from the outset, there was no reason to try to avoid further puddles, and I enjoyed the mindlessness of just running straight through the puddles rather than trying to navigate around them.

I have to admit that my newfound enjoyment of the rain wasn’t solely a change of mindset, not just a Zen-like decision to welcome the rain rather than resist it. Part of the change was pragmatic: until last summer, when the importance of sun protection finally sunk in, I was never in the habit of running with a hat on. Having the rainwater run off my visor rather than into my eyes made it a lot easier not to mind the steady stream of droplets.

But mostly, it was just that rain felt right, yesterday. The weather has been hot lately, and I’ve been running early in the day, when there are a lot of insects out. In the rain, the insects were gone. I felt as if I were blissfully undisturbed: just me, running through the gentlest of showers, cooling off, damp with fresh clean water rather than damp with sticky sweat.

By the end of my four miles, my clothes were drenched, but I still wasn’t cold. It was a perfect day to be running in the rain, and I felt as if I’d discovered a whole new pleasure in running. It might be a long time before the conditions – air temperature, intensity of rainfall, even my own mindset – conflate into the perfect rainy-day run again. But for yesterday, it was exactly right, and I felt as if I’d made a discovery. About myself, about the weather, about running.

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