Running Streak Day 586
YTD Mileage: 1216 miles
The days of August are here, with the full force of heat and humidity that wilts one’s
resolve to keep up with training as surely as it wilts the vitality of every living creature and plant that exists in a somewhat harsh environment such as ours in South Texas. With an October race (Oregon Coast 50k) looming large, my training schedule at this point includes ever increasing weekend long runs. The problem is that along with those ever increasing long runs is my ever increasing summer season fatigue. Motivation to run is difficult to muster when I knows that within minutes I’ll be soaked to the skin, clothes as wet and sticking to skin as if I’ve been swimming, and my breathing labored in the heat. When the temperature is cold, I know I will warm up pleasantly shortly after I begin the run; however, when the temperature outside is near triple digits, I know I will just continue to heat up as my run progresses.
Sadly, I’ve let the heat triumph over my determination, and I am behind in my 50k training.I’m also behind in my weekly running goal, which means I’m also behind in my goal to run 2016 miles in 2016. I think I was behind at this point last year, too, but I can’t really remember. Just about the only running goal I’m meeting right now is my goal to keep up my running streak (and THIS goal is becoming quite burdensome in this weather). Everyone I know who runs is going through the same late-summer heat fatigue and struggling: struggling to get out the AC into the heat to run, struggling with motivation, struggling with pace and effort in the heat and humidity, struggling to meet running goals. Many people turn to treadmills as a way to keep training but for many people using a treadmill saps motivation even more than running in the heat.
Yet, not everyone who spends time running outside is struggling to be active in the heat. When Phillip and I take our grandsons, ages five, four, and two years old to the park, they and the other children at the park run effortlessly and lightly from the swings to the slides to the climbing toys while the adults who accompany them seek shelter in whatever shade is available. When visit them or they visit us, Phillip and I stand wilting in the heat of the day as the boys race around oblivious to the sweltering heat. When we run on the greenway near our home in San Antonio, we see parents ambling along while their children run and skip on ahead, full of energy and life. Watching children run and play outside as if magically shielded from the effects extreme South Texas heat of August on the human body, I am reminded that in addition to having the physiological advantages of youth, children have the advantage of youthful perspective. One reason they don’t seem to succumb to the heat of summer is that they are engaged in activity as play. Their running, skipping, and jumping is not restricted by ideas about training schedules, regular speed work, mileage goals, nor any other specific concern of adults who run. They are motivated by play and enjoyment.
The lesson runners can learn from watching the manner in which children enjoy the outdoors despite the triple-digit temperatures and high dew point is that we must, at least during this time of year, view our running as play. If we let go of specific mileage and training goals for the time being (something that is very difficult for most runners to do) and find ways to turn runs into play, then we will be more motivated to at least keep getting out and keeping our bodies at least running-ready until the weather makes training in earnest more comfortable. This change in my perspective has helped me to keep running every day. A couple of weeks ago, after heat-related nausea led to a failed long run, I woke up the next day rebelling against the idea of running at all. To motivate myself to run, I scratched my plan for another long run that day and instead suggested to Phillip that we run the trails at McKinney Falls. Not much mileage of trails is available at that park, but the area always seems a little bit cooler than the city, and the trails that are in the park are always shady and forgiving. Without the pressure of mileage and pace goals, I even used the opportunity to run on unpaved trails without huaraches or yoga sandals on my feet.
This past weekend, my BRF Gwen and I had plans for a longish run; we both dreaded running in the heat, however. To give ourselves a psychological boost for a long run on a hot, muggy morning, we planned a loop route that would take us back by our cars. In my car I placed an ice chest filled with ice, bottles of Mexican Coke, and cans of La Croix. We had no pace goal, only a mileage goal, and when we passed our cars half-way through our run we stopped and took a break to drink cold Mexican Cokes. We used our leisurely pace to catch up with each other’s lives, and the run was successful because we aimed for pleasure rather than performance. The point is to turn the runs into something playful to look forward to, instead of something to dread. By following the example of children and turning our summer runs into play, we will find a way to tolerate the heat, turn our training into play, and enjoy our runs. Even when the heat of summer wanes into the cooler, more runner-friendly weather of autumn, however, we would do well to emulate the way children run and play. As Alison Barsalona points out, runners can benefit in multiple ways from imitating the way children run and play.