Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall: Run In It

IMG_1921Last week was our annual family vacation and we spent a chunk of it tenting in Franconia Notch, and like all our family camping trips, it rained about half the time.

The first, chilly, rain-pelting morning, we ate a damp breakfast at the campsite and then I changed into a pair of running shorts and a singlet, as minimalist as possible, for the 12 miler on my training schedule.

Minimal clothes are a key aspect of an enjoyable run in the rain. Don’t try to stay dry with waterproof jackets, hats, etc. Just embrace the fact you’re going to be soaked and wear the lightest gear the temperature will permit so it’s not hanging on you like a heavy wet shroud a half mile into the run. If it’s too cold for shorts and singlet, wear a tight, heavier weight compression shirt and shorts or tights.

The other key element to a pleasant rain run? Body Glide, man, and lots of it. Apply liberally to every area in which you’ve every chafed. Oh, and good socks. High-quality, non-cotton, technical running socks.

Kris took the kids down to the camp store lodge to sit at the tables and play cards and drink hot chocolate and I set out running north for Lafayette campground along the paved recreating trail past Profile Lake and on up to Cannon Mountain. And though when I set out I was good and chilly, by this point, with the constant steep climbs and frantic descents, I was warm, comfortable and the rain had become a source of succor rather than an inconvenience. I was as wet as I could possibly get; there was nothing to hide from.

The dramatic ridges and peaks of Cannon rising to my left and Eagle Cliff on Mount Lafayette on my right, shrouded in mist under a boil of gray black clouds, heightened that sense of absolute exposure to the landscape, and engendered a near numinous sense of communion with the mountains, and my legs, lungs and heart all fell into that steady, I-can-run-all-day, rhythm.

At Cannon the trail passes under a bridge and picks up the Reach the Beach leg one course. I recalled as I ran down through the trees the last time I’d run this stretch. Reach the Beach 2012.

It was hot that day and I’d succumbed to the pressure of running leg one, for a competitive masters team, and in the last group of the day to leave the mountain (meaning all runners much faster than me) and gone out way too fast, run the first mile of eight in under six minutes, red lining up a steep hill in mile two and then enduring the most miserable six miles I’ve ever run.

This day, however, the cool air, the warm rain, the forest pattering and rustling and whispering all around me, all seeped into me. By the time I hit the end of the path and turned at about mile 5.75, I actually sped up a few gears coming up the maybe two mile climb back toward Cannon. I felt wonderful.

Two things occurred to me on that run that I thought worth jotting down. One was that God rarely stops the rain just because you pray for sunny weather. Better to pray for the grace, wisdom or at least good luck to find a way to take the proper pleasure, lesson or whatever else it is you are supposed to take from the rain. The second was that while there is no greater misery than huddling under a tarp at the campsite wishing the rain will end, there can be great joy in moving along a trail as the drops splash against the leaves and the rivulets pour over the rocks to the rhythm of your heart. That’s why, despite there seeming to be a direct connection between my setting up a tent and rain moving in (I should volunteer to bring our family tent to drought stricken regions), we still manage to enjoy camping each year. Lace ’em up’ kids, it’s time to hit the trail.

Footnote: The title of this post references the Longfellow poem “The Rainy Day,” which you can read here.