Monday, 6 May 2013

Running in the Rain: Why I Love It

“But the dark roman wine in our bloodstreams 

Makes the cold just a word, just a sound” 

When it rains in Sweden, it really rains.   None of the steady British drizzle I’ve grown up so accustomed to, no; when it rains here in Scandinavia, it pours.   Such was the case last week when, after several weeks of beautiful early spring sunshine, the heavens opened.  Somewhat unfortunately, this turn in the weather happened to coincide with a mid week 6 mile run that I had planned. 

Some people would have swapped their rest day and stayed indoors with a cup of tea to enjoy the therapeutic sound of rain slashing against the windows.  I, however, am not somebody who can be flexible like that.   If I stop for a torrential downpour today, by tomorrow I’ll be bailing because of a momentary gust of wind or because my favourite sport socks need washing.   I know myself well and I know that I have to be firm because give me an inch and I’ll take a mile and run with it (or, indeed, not run in this case). 

What this meant, on that sodden Wednesday last week, was that I was running for an hour, whether I liked it or not.  I reluctantly laced up my trainers and pulled on my rain coat, for the first time since January when it was worn as protection against the -14ºC air temperature.  Off I went. It didn’t take long for me to remember something though and that something was that I really like running in the rain.  Here’s why: 

Temperature Control 
I find maintaining a good temperature whilst running to be quite challenging. If the air temperature is too cold (anything below 3ºC, roughly) then I find it numbing, making my limbs stiff and it difficult to push hard enough at any speed for any length of time. I then seem to have a bracket of a few degrees above that where I’m quite comfortable, but as soon as it reaches 10ºC, I find myself getting very warm indeed. As you can imagine, summer exercise is a tricky concept for me. The rain, however, solves the problem of my internal climate, acting as a nice refresher when usually I’d be starting to feel a little clammy. When I take feeling like I’m about to overheat out of the equation, I suddenly feel a lot fitter all round. 

Fun Factor 
Galloping around a forest in the rain is, I find at least, a very freeing experience. I suddenly feel five years old again, yet more liberated as this time around I can tread in puddles without anybody telling me off. You already look like a fool, with makeup streaming down your face and a ponytail you could wring out, you may as well go the whole hog and get a little muddy too. It’s fun, trust me. Go wild. Be free. 

General Smugness 
There’s something about running in adverse weather conditions that makes me feel quite smug in the best of ways. Unless you’ve just put in a particularly hefty amount of miles (and even then, in general, I find that non-runners switch off a little as soon as you start reeling off figures to them) nobody is ever very impressed by the fact that you simply “went for a run”. However, add in rain, snow, any temperature below zero or a time before 8am (9am on the weekend) and suddenly you get a little more attention paid to your efforts. Of course, I don’t run to impress other people - limping around post run, blisters aching and face turned an unfortunate shade of red, I barely impress myself - but I don’t think anybody can deny that it’s a nice bonus. I certainly feel like a crazy person when I’m dragging my tired legs around the park when I could be in bed and it’s always reassuring when somebody else acknowledges that. 

The Post-Run Shower
Showering after working out is one of the purest pleasures in life, I think. Peeling off rain-sodden running clothes to step under a flow of steamy water takes things to the next level. It’s funny, really, that the rain water makes shower water so much more pleasing but by jove it does. Wrapping yourself in clean pyjamas afterwards is almost as close to heaven as you can get, alone in bed on a Wednesday evening. I think I wrote an essay after my rainy run last week. It was almost fun.

As I neared the end of last Wednesday's run though, I have to admit that my enthusiasm was wavering.  A Snow Patrol song started playing on my iPod Shuffle.  I hadn’t really been listening to the music up until then but it caught my attention again and I heard the lyrics at the start of this post, “the cold just a word, just a sound”.  It was just one of those moments.  I ran the last mile with a new lease of life, the lyrics resonating deeply. 

Because it’s true.  The cold - or the rain, or any other obstacle you may encounter - is nothing, except something for us to overcome.  Overcome them now and, you never know, you may even enjoy it.

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