Usually, I’m a wimp when it comes to inclement weather. If the sidewalks are icy, I will gladly run on a treadmill. I enjoy the predictable environment of indoor track meets: 60 degrees and no wind. For workouts in bitter January, I wear (at least) two pairs of pants, two shirts, a jacket, a buff, a hat, gloves and fuzzy socks–leaving me looking like an ill Ron Swanson.
Yet, running in less than ideal conditions incites toughness–a strength that translates to mental resiliency in races and in life. More importantly, these types of runs become great stories to tell, as long as no one gets sick, lost or injured. Growing up in Nebraska and attending school in South Dakota, I’ve had several run-ins (pun intended) with bad weather throughout my running career.
When I was 11, I ran in a summer club track meet that was pushed back nearly five hours because of lightning delays. While my family sat in the car, waiting for the meet to resume, my sister and I played games and drew comics–one of which I distinctly remember was my dog Moki as a buff superhero.
As a junior in high school, our conference track meet also endured lightning delays and high-speed winds. When the other 3200 runners and I finally began our race after the break, we all started incredibly slowly; no one wanted to take an early lead, because the runner at the front of the pack would have to block the wind. As we completed lap one, and the official announced our embarrassingly slow time, something amazing happened: we laughed. In an odd situation with terrible weather, we found community.
Community was also created in the heat of USATF Junior Olympic Nationals when I was 13. That weekend, Baltimore boasted a heat index of 110, so athletes were kept in several shaded tents preceding their events. Though we were all sweaty and dehydrated–even before we stepped on the track–our close proximity inspired conversations. I talked to girls from all areas of the country: New York, Colorado, North Carolina, Texas, Missouri and everywhere in between. I remember later telling my parents that it was cool to hear so many different regional accents under one roof.
And, just last weekend, my teammates and I became a little bit closer as we pushed through a blinding combination of heavy snow and strong wind on a three-mile easy run. On our first mile-long stretch, our faces and eyeballs were pelted with snow; I prayed that no one would fall down, because if so, all six of us would collapse like a row of dominoes due to lack of visibility. As long as no one dies, this will be a funny story to tell later, I thought.
Thankfully, we survived.
Early spring weather in the Midwest is unpredictable. My long run on Easter–Easter!–morning was filled with chilled air and gentle snowflakes. Yet, these unusual conditions created ten beautiful miles during which I watched the snow fall and let my thoughts wander. And, how perfect is it that unusual weather fell on a celebration of the most unusual, joyous day in history: the resurrection of Jesus?
I’m not much of a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker, but I delight in my inclement weather running adventures. Some of my most memorable runs will always be the ones in which my teammates and I battled the elements, finishing with frozen eyelashes or matted hair. Still, we always finished with a heaping dose of laughter and a lasting story.
Suddenly, the treadmill sounds much less appealing.