Summer Time, and the Runnin’ is Easy

It’s summer, which means its hot, which means runners get whiny. All week long, my twitter feed has been a-twitter with my fellow runners bitching about how miserable it is to run in the heat. Now, I’ll admit that some of them have legitimate complaints. In Tulsa, for example, the high has only dipped below 100 once this month (to a balmy 97), and isn’t forecast to do so again until the 21st. That’s a lot of really hot weather, and anyone forced to run in that has my sincere pity (except for the band of noble lunatics running Badwater right now – they’re just nuts).

Most of the country, however, isn’t insanely hot, its just summer hot — highs in the 80’s, low 90’s – normal summer heat. Yes, running in that sort of temperature is hot and hard, but it doesn’t have to be miserable if you learn to stop fighting the heat, and learn to embrace it. This year, I’m finding myself heading out into 90 degree weather at 11 or 12 am, and not just surviving, but enjoying it.

In previous summers, I too dreaded the summer long run, desperately trying to cram in my run early in the morning before the sun came up, sometimes even skipping a run entirely if I didn’t get out the door early enough. This year, however, in the spirit of running Buddhist (and smiley!), I’ve been accepting the heat as it is: it’s the middle of July. Not April, not May: July. Rather than longing for the cool, breezy late-mornings of Spring, or the chilly afternoons of Autumn, I’m facing the summer as summer, and letting myself experience it for what it is: hot and humid.

I’m not blocking it out or imagining I’m elsewhere or visualizing cool breezes, I’m focusing on the moment, the experience, the heat. The line of sweat down my spine, the direct sun on my shoulders, the heaviness of the air, each is the thing it is. I’m obviously taking measures to assure both safety and comfort, namely drinking lots of fluids with electrolytes (Nuun and Heed are my two favorite), slathering on the sun-screen, and enduring M’s eye-rolling at my sunglasses and my new legionnaire running hat.
I’m also running slow. That’s part of accepting the summer run – the weather isn’t the same as it was a few months ago, and my running isn’t the same, either. Fighting it doesn’t change that fact, so I’m merely enjoying the fact that I’m running at all, even if that “run” is more of a “jog.”

Since returning from Pennsylvania, I only fit in two runs. Saturdays was the epintome of what I’ve been writing about: 7 miles in the middle of the afternoon on a bright, hot Summer’s day, and pushing the jogging stroller to round out the picture. Seven miles is about half the length of my normal Saturday run, but again, I’m giving the weather its due. As Jesse wrote on Run:) a few days ago:

“You can’t have good without bad. You can’t have hard without easy. You can’t feel elation if you never know pain. The care free feeling of an easy run is amazing- you coast down the sidewalk or trail, floating under your own power, feeling like you could go on for hours. You smile at neighbors, stop to play with dogs, and take in the views [. . .] On the other side, there’s a joy in the hard run that is almost beyond words. Lungs burn, muscles ache, and the wind is blowing through your hair faster than it ever does on the easy runs. It reminds you that you’re just a human. A human with limits that are made to be pushed. We adapt when we push.”

I loved the heat and the feeling of pushing through adversity, then I would pass through a long stretch of shade, and a cool breeze would slip through the trees and raise goose-bumps across my arms, and the pure elation that it brought would never have been possible without the miles of sweat and sun that came before it: the pleasure needed the pain, the discomfort was necessitated by the very comfort it was contrasted against.  We stopped to get an icy before continuing on with the run, and I also stopped to buy fresh pineapple, which I ate during the last two miles.

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Then last night, I had the polar opposite run: 5 miles home from Ditma’s Park at 10 at night. The night air had cooled, the sky was dark, and the entire city had mellowed into the slow, summer time stupor that follows a day of beer and barbeque. Instead of skirting Prospect Park I ran through it, and the Southen end was awash with the last refugees from the late evening picnics, the poor unfortunates left hauling the family grill or folding chairs back after an afternoon outside in the cities communal living space.

In the better-off parts of the city, the parks are vacant at night, but in the poorer neighborhoods, where apartments are crowded and air-conditioning an actual luxury, patches of grass and park benches take the place of balconies and roof-tops, transforming entire swaths of the park into a massive, shared front-porch. As I ran north through the park, away from the housing projects and crowded apartments and towards condos and townhouses, people became less and less frequent, and I found myself running in the dark, alone except for the dark trees and the glare from the streetlights. Every few minutes I would be passed by a cyclist, so I didn’t ever feel truly isolated, but there were no other runners, and, at least when contrasted to my ever day running here in Brooklyn, I felt wonderfully alone. Towards the end I even pushed myself to an actual run, hurdling a few garbage bags on the way, then accelerated to a dead sprint for the last few blocks.

*****

I had more to say, and was going to finally write up a review of the Inov8 155s, but I’ve currently fallen asleep twice while writing this, and each time I leave a trail of nonsensical letters across the screen that I have to go back and delete, so I’ll draw this to an end.  (I’m assuming there are even more typos that usual, since I’m only half awake at this point, but I’m willing to run that risk). I guess if I’m saying anything, its ot make friends with summer, with the heat. Stop fighting it, and allow it to be enjoyable as it is. That maybe in the morning, before the sun is really up, or late at night, when the park is dark and deserted. Or it might just be in the middle of the day, where heat is heat, and that heat can teach you something about yourself.

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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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One Response to Summer Time, and the Runnin’ is Easy

  1. Hope says:

    Yes! Still not up to running in the heat, but I have found that I have actually adapted quite well to being out in it, which is good because I have been playing tennis for several hours every weekend. I don’t actually mind the heat, if I am doing something – it just becomes part of the activity, another part of the experience. Now, if I am just sitting on the porch with a drink, and sweating without movement, then I don’t deal so well.

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