Summer is in full swing. The temperatures have hovered in the low nineties all week, the air is heavy with humidity and most afternoons a few thunderstorm bands sweep across the sky. This heat renders you instantly sticky when you step outside, even if it’s just going from the front door to the car.
I wouldn’t have even considered running outside this week if it hadn’t been for the invitation to join a few friends at the track on Tuesday night and then at a park on Thursday night. We pulled into the parking lot last night just as our daily thunderstorm descended upon us. We sat in the car and chatted until the rain dissipated. The sun reemerged, we popped out of the car, quickly talked through our plans for the run and then we took off. My goal was to run 5 hill repeats. I jogged the first mile and a half around the lake with my friend Shannon and at the end of the loop I felt winded by what was supposed to be a warm up. I’m convinced that running in the heat zaps just enough of your energy to make the parts of a run that are supposed to be effortless and easy feel like work. This is a real buzz kill.
There’s monotony to running in the heat – you can’t get away from it. There might be get a breeze or a break from direct sun, but the reality is that when it’s 93 degrees, you feel it.
After our warm up loop I immediately retracted my 5 hill repeat goal. Shannon nodded empathetically as I verbalized this, and then suggested that I maybe just try to work in one hill repeat. This is why running with friends is valuable – instead of jogging for a few more minutes and then retreating to the oasis of an air-conditioned car, I recalibrated my expectations and moved in the direction of my original goal.
There is power in simply starting. I ran the first repeat and knew that I had enough energy for one more, and then one more after that. One, two, three hill repeats completed. I climbed for the fourth time and my legs were shaky as I rested at the top. I ran the fifth hill repeat then walked along the top of hill until my legs stopped wobbling. I jogged back down the hill and around to the park bathrooms. I splashed cold water on my face, which felt like the most indulgent reward for completing the workout. My heart rate calmed down and I ran back around to the parking lot.
I’m grateful for Shannon’s nudge and I’m grateful to have people alongside me that know when to encourage, when to push.
This is the collateral benefit of pushing through when things get tough: I learn that the heat does not need to dictate my behavior. I run up and up, again and again, each time getting a little closer to my goal and a little closer to the understanding that this phenomenon I previously felt to be so limiting, really isn’t. I am free to run.