Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Four Seasons of Running

Over the weekend, I took my run to the bike path where I did so much training this past year. I won't sugarcoat it, it was cold. The thermometer read -2F when I headed out. The sun was shining and the winds were light. When you live in the midwest, you get to experience extremes in weather. A runner's life is planned around the weather. Heck, there's even an app that tells you if it's going to be a good day for a run! But even a bad weather day could still be a good run day. I've been doing it long enough to know how to dress for it if I want to get out there. And I do. There's beauty in every season. Which is why I like to run outside all year around. I've been giving this a lot of thought. I do my best thinking on those long runs. And I thought a lot about running on this path through the seasons.

Winter
Winter is that time of year that makes it tough to be a runner, at least where I live. The weather is notoriously fickle. Actually, the weather is pretty fickle here all year round but winter brings the most intolerable running conditions. The past week was full of below zero temperatures and even lower wind chills. Schools were closed--some for three days--although that was subject to debate. Even though I live 25 miles from Lake Michigan, we still feel the effects of that big body of water. I check the wind direction when I'm heading out for a run, so I know what to expect. An easterly wind blowing over the lake feels colder than one from the west traveling over dry land. That same wind, aka the hawk (I wrote about this last spring), bracingly cold, can also be the cause of some heavy snowfall--although people who live on the east side of the lake, in Michigan and Indiana, get way more snow due to the lake effect than we do. In the winter, we get snow...and sometimes ice... and not a lot of sun. I will admit that there is pretty much nothing better than running when it is snowing. It feels so peaceful and calm. I do my best to get outside as much as possible in the winter. The fresh air and natural light does my psyche a lot of good and goes a long way towards preventing seasonal depression. So do vitamin D supplements....


Spring

Ah.....spring in ChicagoFor runners, spring is our reward after enduring runs in the cold and on the treadmill. The temperatures start to rise and the snow starts to melt. Spring weather can also be fickle, and we get teased with a day or two of warm, sunny days followed by a blizzard. Spring can really mess with your head. But spring is also a season of beauty and hope. After being socked in by clouds, cold, and gray days; after staring at dirty, brown, melting snow and salt stained cars, that first peek of green grass, a tulip poking through the dirt (or snow), or blossoms on the trees; hearing the birds singing--all this can melt even the coldest heart, and remind you that better days are coming. We can take solace in the fact that any snow that falls in spring will quickly melt under the sun's stronger rays. I just love getting outside in the spring and breathing in the freshness that seems to be in the air. Puddle jumping is kind of fun too! Spring is the time of new beginnings. 
Summer (at the retention pond)
And as extreme as winter seems, summers in Chicago are at the opposite extreme. Sometimes I compare the weather here to South Florida, and in July and August, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference! It can be blisteringly hot and so humid that just stepping outside makes you break a sweat.  No matter, I'll take summer over winter anytime. In the summer, I love to get up before the sun comes up and head out for a long run. Early morning runs bring the treat of watching the sunrise. Nights are nice too. Running in the summer rain--as long as it isn't a stormy downpour--is an unexpected pleasure. There comes with the warm weather the hazard of insects, though. Stop for a selfie and the mosquitos are at the ready for a snack. Occasionally clouds, and I mean clouds of gnats fly around and if you run through them, they stick to your sweaty skin. I breathe with my mouth open when I run and yes, I've swallowed my share of gnats. Protein, right? One run, I was stung in the eye by a yellow jacket. He flew right into me. I couldn't help but think what if he flew into my mouth? Scary! I've tried running with my mouth closed and that just doesn't work. A topic for another blog post. Besides the bugs, summer is race training season for me and there is no better feeling than sweating it out on a long run. And let's face it, getting dressed to go out for a run in the summer is a win. One layer, done.

Fall
Out of all the seasons, and there is something to love about all of them, fall is my favorite. Nature puts on a big show for us in the fall, changing the colors of the leaves on the trees. I love the sound of dried leaves crunching under my feet as I run on the bike path. The air in the daytime is still warm, even with the hint of crispness and the promise of cold weather ahead. Cooler mornings make for some speedy miles. And no bugs! There are a lot of dry, sunny days in the fall, and that means a lot of outdoor runs and races. All the prep that I've done over the summer comes to fruition as I head to the starting line of whatever big race I've committed to. But as always, the weather can be unpredictable, and that October marathon starting temp could be 30F or it could be 75F, as it was in 2011 when I ran my first marathon. You do your best to be prepared, because living in the midwest, you never know what you're going to get.

What's it like where you live? Do you get to experience the changes of the seasons? What's your favorite season?


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32 comments :

  1. Living in MS.. it could be cold one day and 70 the next :) Here in PA I think we get more distinct season. I like running in the winter, but I prefer the Spring or Fall :)

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  2. I live in MI, so we get similar weather. There is nothing like the fresh, crisp, clean air right after a big snow storm.

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  3. Love the pictures. I live in Atlanta, so we're mostly hot and humid...and hilly...we get cold snaps every now and then, and I rarely run outside when it's below 40 degrees. Although my 10K PR was in 2013 in 25 degrees, so maybe my running likes the cold better than I do!

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    1. Don't you get a lot of ice storms down there? I'd imagine that summers are tough to run in, tho...

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  4. "Cooler mornings make for some speedy miles" - how true! Seems like I could run fast for hours when it is cool out. In fact, this morning my gym's treadmills were full, so I headed outside for my 8 miler. I actually ran at a pretty fast clip even though it was (relatively) cold I had lots of layers on. I think heat is a culprit which can hurt my speed if I get too hot.

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  5. OMG, you got stung in the EYE?!? That just freaks me right out. I'm glad you're okay.
    I live in central California and even though I hear all the time that we don't have seasons, we totally do. They're just not quite as extreme as yours. :) Fall is my favorite season for running, too. I love the cooler weather paired with the still-long days. I love all the weather we get here, as long as we don't go too many days in a row with clouds. I lived in Washington for a few years and the constant gloom was too much for me.

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    1. Well, the eyelid, actually...but it swelled up in a hurry. Damn bees.

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  6. I like something about all the seasons. Even the nasty heat & humidity of summer brings my first true love...WATER SKIING! Whoop whoop.

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  7. I think having such seasonal extremes makes us more resilient. Face it, we've seen it all. Running in heat sucks the life out of me. Maybe not th best season for running, but still I love summer.

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  8. I hate running when it is cold out. Call me crazy but the warmer the better. I have done a few runs outside this season and it hasn't been too bad though. I need to get one of those face masks like you have. I think that would help out alot. -L

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    1. I only pull out the face mask for extreme cold. I like the fresh air on my face!

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  9. great blog post!! (I may steal this idea in the near future....stay tuned). I whine about the extreme frigid temps in the winter, but I'll take a cold run in the winter sunshine over a "run-in-place" jaunt under florescent lighting. Any day! Summer is my favorite, but spring & fall both are great as well. I would really miss the change of seasons if I actually had my dream house on the beach LOL

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    1. I think about that...sunny and warm every day? How boring! Not really...

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  10. Fall and winter can be a little extreme here too, but fall is usually divine. I adore fall running. and spring too. So heavenly to get out of the grips of snow and cold and start seeing green and wearing shorts and tanks again, feels so good on the skin!

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    1. I do like spring too....those first warm days are magical!

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  11. Spring and Fall are prob the best times to run in DC area. It's been pretty cold here too the last few weeks but I've not been able to run anyway so maybe good timing.

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    1. I hope you are able to get back on the road soon! Spring is coming...

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  12. i'm in Tennessee, so I don't have to deal with the winter too much.. .just a few cold days here and there. I think northerners call our winter "fall". haha The summers are just brutal though. I can't breathe in the humidity. I've lived here all my life, so you'd think I'd be used to it, but NOTSOMUCH!

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    1. You've got some nice winters, for sure! And does anyone ever get used to the humidity?

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  13. I'm definitely a spring and fall runner, I prefer the mid 50's temps. The summers are brutally humid here in DC and if you aren't out doing your long run by 5am, it can be rough!

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    1. Here too! I think we have pretty similar weather, except winter is a little more brutal here...

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  14. I love the different pics- how cool! I am in Florida- it is hot or hotter and sunny or raining! LOL! You are a warrior! I don't know what I would do in the winter if I lived in your town!

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  15. I love this! I live in Seattle so we don't get quite the range you do. I do love running in the rain though. And I love any condition in the summer :)

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  16. I love love fall! It's cold and dreary with way too long of time periods with little to no sunshine where I live. I need to move back to CA.

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    1. Seriously. I don't know why we stay in these gloomy places! Friends and family, I guess.

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