Rainy Day Running: The winter weather has got to be taken in stride.


Well it’s here, guys. The arctic chill has arrived, and it’s time to trade in our track shorts in favor of some weather-friendly tights. Yesterday’s run was a bit of a wake-up call for me in this sense. Let me elaborate: it was fa-reezing for the first 5 blocks, and as my training partner and I turned the corner we encountered a tidal wave in the form of rain, which gradually progressed to pearl-sized hailstones pecking at us for the rest of our run. We were soaked, and we were less-than-happy campers.

The situation brought a quote by legendary University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman to mind – “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.” It is fitting that this was said by a man who lived in Oregon—specifically the Willamette valley—where the weather is bipolar and generally in a bad mood from October through June. Yet the purpose of this column not to sit here and complain about the weather, it’s to talk about running, and running, in this case, relates to the weather.

As runners in Oregon,we can’t “go soft” because of the weather and let down the running coach gods of Oregon, now can we? More than that, we can’t let ourselves down, and thus we’ve got to log those winter miles and run those winter workouts despite the torrents that await us for the next 5-6 months.

Perhaps they don’t await you, though. Maybe you’re one of those runners who can handle running on treadmill when the conditions are looking positively sloppy. In general, I think a lot of “outdoor runners” look down on “treadmill runners”. They seem to be scoffed at by outdoor, purist runners as if they are breaking the code of runnerhood, which must somewhere state that you cannot be stationary and running at the same time.

However, I respect you, treadmill-runners, for your tenacity to exercise and forgo the elements at the same time—no matter how boring it is. The last time I tried to run on a treadmill I lasted about 13 minutes, but if I didn’t had a watch on I would have sworn it was an hour. The time-slowing ability of the treadmill might really be a science worth looking into. People who lament that there aren’t more hours in the day should try completing their tasks on a treadmill (if possible), because minutes never seem to pass more slowly than when on that device.

Moving on from my bewilderment when it comes to treadmills, and in all seriousness, you don’t necessarily have to brave the elements every time you train. Cross training is a great way to give your body a break from the pounding of running and get a workout at the same time, no matter what the weather. Even when I ran collegiately, our coach had almost all of us cross train once-a-week to help keep us injury-free. So perhaps wintertime is an especially ideal time to take up a cycling class or get in the pool to swim laps or aqua jog.

But winter running isn’t always dreary and damp. During today’s run I was feeling nice and cozy in a fleece hoodie and tights as my training partner and I head out for a comfy 5 miler. The grayscale of the sky and the concrete was offset by her florescent orange trainers and every couple steps we crunched a fallen leaf. Nothing could have felt like a more perfect run, despite the nose-numbing weather. As you can see, autumn and winter weather can still make for terrific runs, not to mention some fun, muddy runs.

Since it seems I’ve dedicated this entire post to talking about the weather, I might as well touch on seasonal affective disorder (SAD), AKA the winter blues, and how running relates to it. Though it may appear trivial, SAD is the real deal. According to an interview published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20% of the U.S. population is at least minimally affected by the seasonal shift—not surprisingly, it particularly affects us northern states.

What does that have to do with running? Well, spending time outdoors and exercise—especially when the two are combined—have shown to improve those who are feeling similar to the gray and weepy clouds above. The being out of doors part helps because of the exposure to sunlight (even if it’s through clouds), and the exercise part helps because endorphins are a natural stimulant (read: runner’s high). So, if you’re feeling a little sad with the seasonal shift, or you notice yourself sleepier than usual lately, running may be the answer. (But it’s not a wonder-drug, so please, if you are downright depressed, see a doctor).

Here’s a fun way to usher in our season of questionable forecasts: The EWEB Run to Stay Warm will take place November 18th, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The events include a  half-marathon, 10k, 5k, and kids 400m. The race starts and finishes at EWEB’s River Edge Plaza with the courses looping along the river path, which makes for a fun race for the sake of racing, as well as a flat, paved course for those interested in a fast time. And who might be staying warm thanks to your signing up to run? EWEB income-eligible customers who are having a hard time paying for their utilities.

Until next time, I’ll see you on the trails!

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