Foul weather running

Written on Nov 2nd, 2015 by , Category Marlene Farrell Blog

By Marlene Farrell

With the exception of the past few days, the weather so far this fall has been too good to be true. It makes me delirious with the possibility of runs in which warm muscles work smoothly, while the cool air nudges me to hurry. Runs often end a few miles longer than originally intended, just because …

But it’s coming to an end. Soon there’ll be days when it is cold, accompanied by heavy rain or perhaps a few snowflakes, and it’ll feel like masochism to fling myself against the elements. I’ll run with sodden shoes, shuffling on legs that never seem to elongate, to bear frozen fingers curled into stiff fists.

But I’ll do it for reasons that might seem questionable. I teach myself toughness to not relinquish running plans due to a little discomfort. Sometimes it’s about novelty (and yes, we have it pretty easy in the Cascades’ rainshadow). I can find joy in the drizzle, even laugh at the absurdity of getting showered with wet pellets by a passing car. Not many people go out in “bad weather,” so I can have the trails to myself.

And after stripping off muddy layers in the car or mudroom, there’s the shower! The sweet, hot, electrifying touch of water on my face. It massages warmth back into shivering limbs and gets absorbed through the pores of my skin.

My family is outdoor-hearty. I keep up only by wearing more clothes than everyone else. While my kids romp in shorts and t-shirts, I’ll be zipped into a windbreaker with hat and gloves handy.

So when we go on trips, which often means sailing on our beloved Enterprise these days, I am tested by the morning challenge of running. Already the trip is a break from routine, because when I get up early I don’t head straight for the coffeepot. I fumble around in the dark by headlamp, squeezing into the cluttered navigation desk to read a book. I’m squirrelled away in my nook and oblivious to the passage of time. The light seeps through our clear hatchboards, but, opening them up, I’m greeted by an ominous damp chill.

I think of excuses but usually find myself tying my running shoes, while Kevin dresses to join me. It’s one of the joys of having older kids, that we can run together now, even in a strange town, leaving them to fend for themselves (but not touch the propane stove) on the boat.

The first few steps, unsure of my footing on a slick dock and still unfolding my stiff body, are the worst. We agree to ease into the run, starting out slowly. The port towns slumber while we meander empty streets. We don’t know where we’re going but might head in vaguely the right direction toward a park. Other times we’re anchored at a state park, like in the San Juans, and we row the dinghy, the oars slapping gently in the water. Reaching a small dock we wake up our brains to stare at a trail map and make a hopeful plan.

It doesn’t take long before the moist air and misty rain turn from bane to blessing. They enliven my senses and I breathe in the mélange of smells, of salt and damp earth, decaying seaweed, man-made odors of bakeries and overstuffed dumpsters. I won’t notice I’m wet until the run is complete.

When sailing, we’re out in the weather all day long. Thankfully, the canvas bimini blocks the wind since we don’t go below except for bathroom breaks and meal prep. Getting soaked or chilled on a morning run can make the rest of the day an exhausting trial.

But there’s this shiny, tiny miracle, that when carried in groups of two, can convert me back to a hot-blooded sailor, ready to helm for hours. Quarters! Most people don’t acknowledge their value except for a gumball for their kid. But two quarters at state parks and marinas buy me an onslaught of steaming water, and I use every precious second of it. I leave the shower encased in weather-resistant flushed skin. Just to be sure, I also wrap myself in long johns, fleece and foulies and I’m as hearty as Captain Kevin.

Whether at home or while sailing on the wet side, I run in nasty conditions because of the challenge but also because, afterward, I can more fully cherish my cozy warmth.

Marlene Farrell is a Leavenworth resident, long-distance runner and coach with the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club.

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