Running and the Elements

An essay about how we adapt our running when we encounter challenging natural conditions.

By on January 31, 2020 | 1 comment

AJW's TaproomOver the past few months, after more than a year of woeful training inconsistency, I have finally fallen into a positive training pattern. An essential part of this training pattern has been to religiously and almost zealously get out of bed at 5 a.m. every day and get out the door without thinking too much about it. As part of this routine, it being the winter here in my relatively new home on the U.S.’s Mississippi Delta, I check the weather–particularly the wind, and both its direction and velocity.

As I’ve increased my understanding of the elements in my new training environment, I’ve come to realize that at this time of year wind is everything. As a result, once I check the wind, my next order of business is to plan my running route accordingly. It’s a very fluid process but one which has become both a fun and challenging part of my daily routine. I now have routes that go out from my house in all four cardinal directions. Some routes have the benefit of tree cover from the wind while others traverse the wide-open and windswept cotton fields. Choosing the correct path in these circumstances has become the single-most-important factor in whether a run is enjoyable or not.

Earlier this week, while riding a refreshingly crisp tailwind on the inward half of my 10k run, I was thinking about all of the ways the elements affect us as runners. Many of these effects we take for granted or ignore but some, like wind, heat, cold, ice, and snow, can have both enriching and devastating impacts on our running and can, in the most extreme cases, impact our relationship with this thing we love to do so much.

As a lifelong runner, I often fall into the trap of thinking I’ve got it all figured out. Heck, I’ve been running for 35 years and running ultramarathons for 28, so how could there possibly be anything else for me to learn from running? Well, my recent encounter with the elements and the routines it now sets in motion has indeed taught me something new. And, while that realization alone was impactful, the tertiary realization was that there are many things in life that I ignore or take for granted and perhaps if I paid a bit more attention to the signs, like wind direction and velocity, I might find more joy, satisfaction, and contentment in the rest of my life.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week is a classic pale ale from one of the more established Chicago, Illinois craft breweries. Daisy Cutter Pale Ale from Half Acre Beer Company is luscious and dank. With a touch of fruitiness on the front end, Daisy Cutter drinks smooth and silky with just a bit of a bitter following. Well worth a try the next time you find yourself in the Windy City.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What are the most challenging elements of your home running environment?
  • How do the elements affect your relationship with your running?
Andy Jones-Wilkins
Andy Jones-Wilkins finished in the top 10 men at the Western States 100 7-straight times. He's sponsored by Patagonia and Drymax socks and is iRunFar's editorialist.