This can be a difficult time of year to be where I live in Alaska. The days are beginning to get shockingly short and it often feels like it doesn’t stop raining or snowing for weeks. It certainly doesn’t rain every day here in Juneau, but when we get into weather like we’ve had lately, it sure can feel like it does. Even the ‘nice’ days this time of year generally consist of many hours of light drizzle followed by one or two hours of what we call ‘sucker holes:’ tiny holes of blue sky in the clouds that might suck you into thinking that it’s clearing up. It is not uncommon for these sucker holes to be followed by another two days of rain. The good thing is that once adapted to this climate, it really is possible to believe that these are, in fact, ‘nice’ days, even though they might be considered horrible in most other places. Out of necessity we learn to take a cup-half-full approach, even when it’s raining steady enough to literally fill that cup halfway in a few hours.
As an avid runner, or any outdoor enthusiast, it can be pretty hard to cope with this time of year when the local weather is at its worst. It can be especially daunting if you live in a house–like I do–up on a hillside, with large windows leading to a wide, sweeping view. This is great when it’s sunny and you are dreaming up adventures you will soon take into the spread of mountains you can see in the distance, but when it’s raining and so cloudy that you can’t see anything, this can be a really hard time to get out the door to go for a run.
It becomes so easy on these days to daydream while drinking my morning cup of coffee about all the things I can accomplish indoors that day. Maybe this is the perfect day to catch up on my two years of backlogged The New Yorker articles. Those stairs I’ve been meaning to redo ever since I tore the carpet off of them while a little warmed up on whiskey a few weeks back–what better day than today to get started on that project? When it’s this wet outside, nearly anything inside can sound more appealing than yet another run out in the rain.
Then I remember that I could simply go to the gym and run on a treadmill. This is when I finally snap out of it and remember that the rain is never really falling as hard as it looks from the front window, and that I should just give it a shot. I lace up the shoes and somewhat reluctantly head out the door.
When I get out, I see, it’s definitely raining. It has definitely been raining for the majority of the past month. Gradually, as I run, though, I realize that it really isn’t raining that hard. I get into the forest, heading up the mountain trail which begins less than a block from my front door and the tree cover is enough to block the rain completely.
Within minutes I realize I am overheating. I laugh to myself at the irony of having just spent two hours indoors procrastinating going out in the rain for a run, certain the wetness will lead to being cold and uncomfortable, and within 15 minutes on the trail, I am feeling warmer than I have all day. As my run unfolds I completely forget that it is raining, or that it really ever rains in Juneau. Another wet, drizzly, cool day is becoming nicer and nicer the further I run.
I return home an hour later completely renewed and excited for the day. I check the tide tables thinking that maybe I’ll go out to a local creek and try to catch a couple salmon for the freezer, or maybe I’ll see if any friends want to gather in the evening for a beach bonfire and dinner. Anything to get some more outside time on this now surprisingly ‘nice’ day.
After a quick shower, though, I glance out the window and notice that it is looking rather rainy and gloomy once again. I guess it’s time to start digging that lumber out of the garage and get cracking on those stairs. First, though, I’ll just read a couple magazine articles in hopes that the rain lets up a bit so I don’t get wet going outside to the garage.
Several hours later and I’ve finally got the lumber organized, ready to see if I actually have any chance of rebuilding a set of stairs, when my phone begins to buzz with text messages. One reads: “It’s getting sunny. Want to head out to the beach for dinner?” Another says: “Care to soak up some sun and drink a couple beers on the beach in an hour?”
I glance out the window and notice a few tiny sucker holes, each about the size of my fist held at arm’s-length. The rain has even diminished to the most gentle of drizzles. I check the hourly forecast and notice that the chance of precipitation has dropped from 90% to 60% for the rest of the evening.
It’s going to be a perfect autumn evening in Juneau. The stairs will have to wait for another day. I quickly push the lumber to the side of my living room and begin to gather the essentials: firewood, beer, matches, lawn chair, and of course, a rain jacket.
An hour later I’m with a few friends, sitting around a fire on the beach in a light drizzle. One of them asks if I bothered running at all on such a wet day. “Yes,” I tell them, “I went out in the late morning and it actually dried up and got really nice for the hour I was out.”
My friends all look at me in disbelief. This is when I remember that they were all indoors all day, looking out the window at a wet, cold, gloomy day–the exact perspective I had on the day before venturing out, before creating my own ‘nice’ weather.
“Well, at least it’s nice now,” one of them adds. “Yeah, at least it’s nice now,” I agree. The reality, of course, is that’s it’s still lightly raining, just as it has been all day. Immersing ourselves out in it, though, it quickly comes to seem so much nicer than it ever does when looking at it from inside.
It might not be the rain where you live, and it might not be this same time of year, but whether it’s the cold, snow, wind, heat, fog, or something else, pretty much everywhere has a certain weather trend that tends to make a given time of the year fairly challenging to be a runner. Luckily, though, if we simply get out and create our own ‘nice’ weather, there is a nearly endless supply of it there for the taking.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What challenging weather variables do you have to navigate as a runner in your part of the world?
- Do you employ Geoff’s tactic of just pretending it’s ‘nice’ when the weather really isn’t? Or how do you get out for a run on those imperfect weather days?