“Mothers are all slightly insane.” J. D. Salinger
When I was thirteen and living in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA; I got my first regular babysitting job. Twice a week, I would babysit for our neighbor Jeanne after school while she went for a run with 2 of her girlfriends. I made $4 per hour or per run. The first time it was raining on my regular babysitting day, I thought that Jeanne would call and cancel, but she didn’t. Her friends didn’t cancel their sitter either. I already thought she was crazy. Who pays for a sitter to go running? And running in a downpour….that seemed insane. I couldn’t believe that she was responsible for the well-being of three kids. I think that was my first experience of thinking of someone as a “crazy rain runner.”
In my twenties, I would drive by runners at 6 am and feel sorry for them. As if they weren’t doing this out of their own choice, that they would need my pity. When it was raining, I’d notice that the number of outside runners would significantly decrease; leaving only a few of the “crazy rain runners.” In a way, I equated running in the rain with being an extremist; dieter vs obsessed anorexic type of distinction.
In LA, we rarely get rain. An average year has 26 days with any degree of measurable precipitation, as compared to 146 days in good old Pittsburgh. About 5 years ago, I remember telling a friend, “I feel bad for the people running the LA marathon today; the one day that it’s raining in LA happens to be marathon day.”
“What are you talking about?” she responded. “Real runners love rain.”
Over the last three years, I’ve done my runs on your typical beautiful LA weather days. There were a handful of times when it started to sprinkle, and I’d cut my run short and head back towards the car or my house. On a day that it was raining hard, I’d resort to my backup workout of going to spin class. Spin class is great, but you can’t tune out the instructor to have your own internal conversation. On December 2nd, 2014, it was raining. I didn’t want to spin. I needed the mental washing of a good run. For the first time, I headed out the door in a downpour.
The neurotic self-conscious hypochondriac that I can sometimes be, I started out slow and it took me a little bit of time to relax into my run. My internal thoughts went something like: I really need to fill out the little in case of emergency ID tag that you attach to your running shoes. I could slip on some wet leaves and fall backwards, get a concussion, be taken to the ER. I’ll have no ID on me and since I’ll have had a concussion, who knows how long it will take them to track down my husband, who will probably look at his cell and see an unidentified number and not answer it. The hospital will leave him a voicemail, not knowing that he has 50 unchecked voicemails on his phone and that he only checks texts, and I’ll definitely end up being late for work. Then I tell myself to relax. If I slip on a wet leaves and fall, at the worst I’ll probably get even more wet and a few scrapes, but I’ll still likely make it back home in time to shower and get to work on time.
Now it’s already been about 3 miles in; I’m not sure because my Garmin GPS is not picking up in the rain. Since I haven’t tripped yet, I think I’m probably going to be ok and finally relax, and the mental wash that I set out for starts to set in. Wow, my surroundings look really beautiful. Everything looks so different when you are actually IN the rain rather than seeing it through a window or from under an umbrella. The grass is glistening. I love the calming sound of the cars driving by in the rain, the feel of raindrops on my face. I’m not overheating like I usually do. No one is outside, so I don’t have to keep saying “on your left” trying to pass walkers. I leap over puddles so that I don’t step in them; I think jumping over them counts towards cross-training; who needs cross-fit? I’m tempted to do a pirouette. This is so fun. Running in the rain is fun. I’m running in the rain.
Remember that time in freshman year of college when it was pouring rain at 3 am and a bunch of us went outside in our pajamas and ran around and got soaking wet? That was fun. Whatever happened to Catherine-Paige; she moved to Texas and then I lost track of her. I haven’t thought about her in so long. She got me. I should try to find her. When is the next time that we are actually going to have rain in LA? I could run forever. But then I’d be late for work. I’m never late for work. Tonight when I get home I’m going to research the best apparel for running in rain. The nerd and shopaholic in me may get redirected towards new topics, but they will never go away.
When I get home; I feel exhilarated, strong, adventurous, unstoppable. I think of Jeanne, that irresponsible crazy mother of 3 who paid a babysitter to go and run in the rain. It seems that I have joined the insane.
“I ran my fastest marathon in the rain.” Bill Rodgers; winner of four Boston and four NYC marathons.