[I got nothing this morning — too busy balancing work and preparing for a track meet this afternoon — so I dug up this story from the archives. No one liked it then, so I assume no one will like it now. But after waking up and seeing snow on the ground for the first time in over a month, I wanted to remind myself that there are advantages to running in bad weather… (Originally Published May 5, 2007]
Last Thursday night I jogged over to Fresh Pond for a short tempo run with my long-time training partner, Terry McNatt. Terry and I typically run track workouts on Tuesday, and on Thursday we do something a little less intense — a tempo run at threshold pace, or sometime a short workout on the hills of Comm Ave in Newton.
It was a beautiful evening on Thursday. Flowers were blooming along the borders of the path and around the public waterworks there. The trees had new young leaves that rocked in the wind and made a rustling sound I haven’t heard for six months. After what seemed like months of cold and rain, it was great to be out in shorts and t-shirt, feeling fast and light. At least, it was great until we started our run.
The problem was that every other citizen in the greater Cambridge Metropolitan area was also at Fresh Pond that night, and each one had brought his or her three tennis-ball chasing golden retrievers, and they all had the same idea of enjoying strolling around the Pond talking on their cell phones. (The owners, not the dogs.)
Where were all these people last month, I wondered. Where were all the dogs all winter? Had they been indoors all this time, and only let out yesterday for the romp of all romps? I tried not to begrudge them access to the whole width of the Fresh Pond path, as I tried to slip by them quietly while running at 5:50 pace and breathing hard. They had every bit as much right to be there as I did, probably more, since theoretically a runner takes up a lot more space than a walker. No, I didn’t mind the traffic, but — and here is the amazing thing — I started thinking with nostalgia about those happy evenings several weeks earlier when Terry and I would meet at The Pond under the shelter of a building entrance, and set off into the rain with the whole path to ourselves.
There’s something very satisfying about being out training in weather that keeps most people indoors. It can be tough to motivate yourself, but once underway, it’s not so bad, and the heat from running keeps you warm. With few pedestrians to dodge, few distractions of any kind, the run becomes very focused and pure.
The warm weather has changed all that. A month ago there was no problem with joggers, and the very few dog walkers were a welcome sight, isolated islands of humanity with whom to exchange a nod or a wave. Now, it’s summertime and the living is easy. Dogs are jumping and the human density on the running paths is high.
It’s the same on the Charles, on Comm Ave., even on the local high school tracks, whose inner lanes fill with good people from all walks (I use the term intentionally) of life from 6 to 9 p.m. every night.
It turns out that finding a place to run fast is a heck of a lot easier when the weather is rotten and forbidding than when it is lovely and inviting. As much as we runners complain about winter in New England, and Spring in New England,… and even Fall in New England, we have it pretty easy compared with running along the Esplanade on a warm summer’s evening. I really hate to admit it, especially after this spring, but rotten days for everything else are actually pretty good days for training. And nice days are a distraction.
Even as I type these words, I hear the sounds of my neighbors talking to friends they have invited over for a cookout. I hear the laughter, the easy conversation, the clink of bottles… I smell food. It seems so inviting, and I have to rouse myself and remember that I have an appointment with a certain 7-mile course.
If only it were 40 degrees and raining!