Today I ran for the first time in a long time.
“But wait, Suz!” you say. “You run every day. Isn’t today like day 300-someyhing of your running streak?” (313 to be exact.)
I do and it is. But then there are runs that makes you feel alive, like a runner, not like you exercised, but like you ran. And today I had one of those for the first time since June. Today I felt alive, free, me. Today I felt like there was hope again. Running is the most important thing I do, and when my running is affected, all of me is affected. Today the weather taught me a lesson.
In the midst of this awesome day I'm pondering something deep. Today has been the best day I have had since the marathon. It might be noted, this has been the coolest day I've had since the marathon as well. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence. But it also poses difficult questions.
If I am that deeply affected by weather, does this mean I am going to have to move somewhere one day where 80 degrees in an anomaly? Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s real, chemical, and can be very serious for some. Therefore, I say this with seriousness as well. No humor intended: I feel like I suffer from Summer Affective Disorder. I am not the same in summer. Heat does to me what lack of sunlight does to people. But this year I have seen it at a whole new level.
Yesterday was miserably hot, as usual. I knew today we wouldn’t even hit 80, that I had two days of running in 60ish degrees before we got hot again for half of next week. But it was hard to imagine last night that I would wake up and it would be lovely. But it was. I woke up and switched on my weather app just to be sure. There was the blessed number 6. I went to the door to feel it. It was real. I was beaming like a happy kid. The thing is, I never wake up well. I am not a morning person at all. I need a solid hour alone to be functional. There I was beaming and happy.
I promptly lay there for hours, reading, writing, doing whatever I wanted. Today my run was at my will, not the sky’s. I went out after 12 p.m. An afternoon run! My joy! Now that I know which half I have coming, I know what my schedule should be. I needed about 7 miles today—which is so hard for me to do in heat. It’s not that I can’t so much as I stumble out half asleep and miserable and trudge through these crazy high miles because I can’t run fast in it. I get that that’s physiological. Science tells us for every 5 degrees past 65, our bodies slow (same with 30 degrees or less). But you know what? After months in which you are trudging through days, you begin to wonder if distance is in you still and if you’re a runner and if the running gods decided to use you as a cosmic toy or something. And then 65 degrees happens to you one Saturday. The first Saturday you can sleep and lounge around. And then it’s like life has come to your barren soul. The rainfall and clouds bring hope.
I’m not exaggerating either. I have been beaming all day. Nothing has changed in my life. I have still had the most rotten summer, and I am still making difficult decisions (weather non-withstanding), and I have still been struggling through a lot. So tell me why today I am happy, joyful, smiling, hopeful? Weather.
Any student of literature knows that setting is integral to the story, so why is it so unusual to think that about real life? While 99.5% of the people I knew were complaining about cold and ice this year, I was beaming and rejoicing and running around on it in YakTrax. No one heard me complain about the cold, the winter, the short days, the snow, the ice. Because I didn’t.
I understand that’s unusual. I also understand even people who don’t mind hot are sick of it by now. One of the more mild-mannered guys at work looked utterly fed up with heat this week. But after seeing what happened in me with one sleep, all because of weather changing, I have to ask myself how much setting affects my life. I’ve already made the tentative decision to not stay in the south next summer. I have no idea how that will work out, but I am off contract May-Aug so my hope is if I only have a month of this instead of 4, I will deal better. (Shout out to anyone who knows of a summer adjunct or other job north of I-80. Maybe Minnesota is a good bet. I’ll be checking on that. I can’t forget that the marathon temps were positively cold. Canada works too.)
So today’s run was a joy. Not all easy. I have done little endurance running all summer. Two hot distance runs plus the marathon. The rest were 2-4 miles, though every day so I kept up my weekly mileage. I’ve gotten better at running in heat, but it’s not me. I hate it. Hate. Strong word. After today I know it’s the right word. Today I was faster. Overnight. I have not even been able to pull off a 12 minute mile at dawn in the heat and humidity. Today it was 10. Weather. Even when my knee acted up (cortisone shot Tuesday), I could run through it and not lose time—it’s like the psychology of it made me better. Breathing was challenging the first 2 miles or so because I was so much faster and also realizing 2 miles wasn’t a third done. I had to get back into distance runner mentality. Training mentality. Summer running is done. Half marathon training is back. I knew it would be harder simply because of the mental shift. But it was still a joy. That’s how running usually is to me. Hard isn’t the issue. Joy is. I have had some good runs this summer, but not many. I have still LIKED it. But it has been different. There will be some hot ones next week but only about 3 days so I can pad my mileage around it. I can do this. I have made it. This year. And last. Last was worse. But this year I saw the contrast in me.
I’m honestly not joking about the Summer Affective Disorder idea, even though that’s not a real disorder. I was born for cold, made for clouds, thrive in the fall. Today’s run made me wonder what kind of runner I could be if I didn’t have to spend 4-5 months a year just fighting through. So it was a joy, but I have a dilemma. Because today I am happy. Today I had no desire to do anything but have my own little happy day with books and pumpkin latte—and Pink Magic. Today I felt like I was alive. Today felt like a gift.
Autumn, I embrace you.