Saturday, October 1, 2011

Rain running is rejuvenating!

I looked out of the window at the rain today. There’s an old Nike TV ad (I think it’s Nike) that I thought about. A man is running in the rain and throws his hands up in celebration and victory. I have never been able to find that clip online but I remember it vividly. There was no obvious victory; in fact, he looked like he was running on a city street. His victory seemed to be that he was alive, he was soaked and he was loving it. It had “Just Do It” written all over it. The reason I love that “made for TV” memory is that I know exactly how that man felt in that moment.

At this time of year, Chicago jumps from extreme heat to extreme cold within weeks. It is fond of skipping Fall/Autumn completely. This year, it has decided to give us the right transitional season but it is really rainy. You’d think that I’d be glad of the rain because I can’t run right now (recovering from metatarsal stress fractures). The rain doesn’t help. It actually makes it more frustrating for me because I LOVE to run in the rain. It seems to be a fairly common sentiment and I’d love to hear other people’s reasons why. Maybe one day when someone reads this blog.

When I started to run, I thought that the activity was an awesome “third place” for me. My “first place” is hectic. I have a wife, a dog and three children under 7. My “second place” is also hectic. I work in a high stress business that is based on tight deadlines and team-based projects. It was a delight to find a “third place” that was peaceful. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a true “third place” because I haven’t read The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg. I think he talks about social spaces as “third spaces”. I should read the book. Until then, running is my “third space” by my own definition of the term. I am a person who needs solitude. Even when my family is all in bed (like they are right now), I still can’t get the solitude I need. I’m not sure why. Running fulfills this need.

I stumbled upon the full experience of running by accident when I stopped using headphones because music dictated my pace too much. When I run distance, I make two connections. I connect inward with myself and I connect outward with the world and beyond. An ultra-marathoner named Anton Krupicka said a bunch of stuff on his New Balance Minimus video that resonated with me. Running is simple, pure and primal. It’s as natural an activity as you can get. Just you and the ground you are running on. It’s an uncomplicated experience that has a great deal of richness. It forces you to live in the moment. For me, that moment is about my connections. Running strips away stress and noise allowing me to feel a sense of peace and connect with myself. Running also strips away the environment that I am running in and makes me feel like I am connected to something bigger. There’s a sense of being small and vulnerable in the grand scheme of things but there is also a sense of purpose and belonging that comes with it too. The overall experience is one of optimism and rejuvenation. Endorphins in the mix don’t hurt either.

So, where the heck does rain come into this? Well, you know that scene in movies where there is a downed electrical cable and water is pouring in? You know that when that water hits the cable that some serious shit is going to go down. Rain is a super conductor for me. The feelings I have talked about are amplified by being soaked to the skin and humbled by nature. It transforms an already awesome experience into something more euphoric – almost religious. Maybe rain has this power because we are hard-wired to respond to water because we are predominantly made of it?  I don’t know why. All I know is that it works. I want to run in the rain right NOW.

The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg


  1. I like running in the rain, too - although my reason is much more simplistic. It is a built-in cooling agent. It's like it gives you a permission to run just a little harder because you know you're not going to overheat. Actually, you know I don't like running in general - but when I see rain it makes me want to go out there!

  2. I've definitely used rain for it's practical purposes too. In the summer, it saved my ass a few times with the heat. There is also another factor that I enjoy with a downpour which is the permission it gives you to enjoy because you know it's not optimal for running efficiently.

  3. i don't think i can contribute on here - i don't run! this is your sister speaking!

  4. This is about running and it's hard to relate if you don't run. I do appreciate the visit though!


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