Over the last couple of days, Boston welcomed its first really hot and humid weather of the summer. After a near-perfect weekend, temperatures rose into the nineties on Monday and Tuesday, prompting evasive maneuvers from much of the populace — some fled to the beaches, others to their air-conditioned offices.
Since we don’t have air conditioners at home, we began our hot weather routine of closing windows and shades in the morning and then opening them at night. In the evenings before bed, we implemented our tried-and-true arrangement of box fans in windows (some blowing in, some blowing out) to set up cross breezes that made the upstairs quite comfortable. These were just some of our numerous accommodations to the heat wave.
And as for the running, it was great.
I have never really understood why I like hot-weather running so much. The explanation that I like extremes doesn’t really hold up because I definitely don’t look forward to running in the cold. As for rain, sleet, snow, plagues of locusts — the most I can say is that I endure them with as much patience as I can muster, but I do not love the experience, not the way that I like running in the heat.
A lot of people tell me they hate the kind of weather we’ve been having. They tell me exercising in the heat is dangerous, as well as unpleasant. They would rather do their exercising in a health club with perfect climate control. In between driving to the club with the air conditioning on in their cars and working out in the air-conditioned club, they hate the fact that they become sticky walking from the parking lot.
As for me, it sounds strange, but I really like how when I’m stretching after such a run, a large pool of sweat forms at my feet. I feel oddly proud of that sweat. It’s weird.
But lest anyone accuse me of being reckless, I think that I appreciate the potential dangers of running in the heat, especially doing the kind of intense running that raises one’s core temperature to alarming levels. For example, racing in the heat is no joke. I remember last year at about this time I ran a five-mile race with temperatures in the low nineties. The first 2-3 miles felt petty normal and then right around the 3-mile mark it suddenly occurred to me what a fine thing it would be to stop by the side of the road and sit in the shade. At that point, I just kind of jogged it in with an absence of ambition or interest.
And I know, too, that what we’ve just experienced is just the beginning. Sure, it’s a lark to run when it’s ninety, but won’t I be complaining along with everyone else when we suffer two weeks of even hotter and more humid weather later in the summer? Maybe I will, maybe I will. But if previous years are any guide, I’ll find a way to keep enjoying the challenge of it.
So the question is why — why do I look forward to these steamy runs? I’ve wondered whether my build and ratio of surface area to body mass makes me better adapted to running in the heat than others. I’ve wondered whether there’s a bit of narcissism or pridefulness in being the guy who defies the conventional notion that no one should be out there exercising in this kind of weather. Or maybe there’s just a screw loose somewhere.
Whatever the real reason, the one that I’m going with for now is that hot-weather running seems to me to be as pure as running gets. Clothing is all but optional. Speed is not required. The goal is simply to move in space. And in that survival shuffle through the afternoon haze, thought itself slows to a crawl.
And I am transported.