Happy in the rain
This newsletter was originally published on Patreon on 16 November 2020
Ever since I started running age 9, I’ve been chasing goals. When I was younger, I was training to win races, and ever since I’ve been an adult I’ve either had this goal to get faster and break my times, or to run further and complete ultras. As a competitive runner - even if it’s only with myself - I’ve always wondered how I will cope when age really starts slowing me down. When beating times is no longer possible. Will I even still run? It's a question I’ve asked myself over the years.
Of course, I have always enjoyed the feeling of running, but that has rarely been the main motivating factor to get me out there - at least, not consciously.
But with the ongoing lockdowns putting all ideas of racing on hold, my goals have got smaller. I’ve just tried to keep my mileage above a certain level, to keep myself ticking over, to maintain fitness ready for when we can get back to it. So I try to run at least 30 miles a week.
On Saturday, all day the sky was dull and heavy, the trees thrashed around in the wind, the rain splattered on the windows - it was the kind of day where you need the lights on in the house. I didn’t need to run. I’d had a good week and with a nice Sunday run I would easily pass my 30-mile target.
Occasionally I opened the front door, to see what it was like outside. The rain squalled, spraying in my face. I closed it again.
But then, about 4pm, with an hour of light left, after a day playing board games with my son, I decided to go for it. A quick five miles around the trails, I thought, before it gets dark. Why not?
Five miles of running later, I stopped by the car, standing there in the fading light, supping the autumn air, the wind blowing around me, and I was in heaven. Skipping through the woods, splashing through the mud, racing along by the river with the wind behind me, descending the hill with the lights of Totnes twinkling in the dank evening - what more joy could life offer? And as I stood there bathing in the glow of these simple pleasures, not wanting to get back in the car, I caught a glimpse of how running could be for me in the future. For possibly the first time ever, I got a sense that running without goals, without targets, but just because you can, for the pure joy of it, could actually be more fun. People had told me that before. But I had never quite believed them. The enjoyment was a nice by-product, sure, but you needed a goal to push for, otherwise it lacked purpose.
But here I was, freshly finished a run that was tied to no goal at all, and it seemed truly one of the best runs I had ever had. Possibly because it had no reason. And I could suddenly see myself getting old and still running, still chasing around in the rain and wind, just for the fun of it. And where before that had seemed like a comedown from the years of racing and pushing, it now felt like a rather splendid proposition.
I felt so good I felt moved to tweet about it when I got home. Of course, I couldn’t fit all that in a tweet, so I just wrote: “It was grey, windy and rainy this afternoon. Type of weather Brits and weathermen usually call ‘miserable’. So I went out for a run on the trails. And of course, it was bloody wonderful. I think it may even be my favourite running weather.”
It hit a nerve, with 232 likes so far (that’s a lot for one of my tweets) and lots of wonderful replies. How great it is to be part of a tribe that agrees with this statement, part of a group of people who see the wind and rain and don’t get depressed, but get excited. Amen to that.
Some of my favourite replies were: "Hear hear. Love wet trail running. As good for the soul as the soles!” and "I know this feeling well, nothing like it!”.
And one person said: “It’s a close call between running during the last couple of hours of light on a dank autumn day and first thing on an early summers morning.”
Yes, true. But how lucky were are to have both - at least in the UK. Of course, in other countries you may have other options. In fact, I thought I’d end today’s musing with that question: what is your favourite weather for running?