Despite the voluminous writing that I do on this website, I rarely expose the darker side of my motivations. However, my 20 mile long run last Saturday has given me opportunity to inveigh my perception of our culture. (How about inveigh for vocabulary? It was not my first choice, I found it in the thesaurus and then had to use the dictionary to figure it out, but it is exactly what I mean.)
That Friday I emailed my two most consistent training partners with the opportunity to accompany me on a 20 mile run Saturday morning. One is injured and the other just ran a marathon so I did not actually except either one to come along for the whole thing. After looking at the forecast neither one was particularly enthusiastic. That is fine, no problem, if I was in either one of their shoes I would probably not have tagged along either.
So I woke up around the late hour of 7 AM Saturday. It was barely sprinkling outside so I dressed and stopped by Starbucks. I had a 12 oz. mocha and a miniature scone. One of the coaches I have gotten marathon advice from suggests not eating anything on marathon day until standing on the starting line in the last five minutes before the start. That way your insulin system does not go crazy before the race even starts. So I tried that.
Around 7:45 AM I pulled into the Sageville entrance to the Heritage Trail and had the parking lot to myself. It was not raining at all. After a couple quick stretches (leg swings) I set off. The first six miles were perfect! 50 degrees Fahrenheit and no rain. Around mile seven it started to rain, but only a sprinkle at first. I was making good time so I did not check my watch on the way out, making the first 10 miles in 66 minutes. On the way out I encountered one person around mile nine. On the way back I encountered another person, perhaps the same guy around mile 11. There is a cluster of houses around that area and I have a feeling that both of them lived very close. Neither one was dressed like the typical rail trail yuppie.
There might have been a lady with a dog on the way back, but I tried to run a progression run and I don't remember clearly.
The rain was light by my definition. It was not very windy, and while it was not warm, it was in the low 50s, which is not cold. Despite these rather moderate conditions I was out there for just over two hours, a third of which was ideal running weather, and I saw only three people at least two of which were wearing jeans and flannel. Normally given those temperatures, this time of year, Saturday morning, I would expect to see about three people per mile. If the trail was in Massachusetts you would see 30 people per mile.
While there could be many reasons, tapering for races, sleeping in, competitive season already ended, I feel as though people were scared away by the weather. We check the weather and become fair weather warriors. I find that attitude disappointing. I have gotten sick running in a cold rain, but it has to be in the low 40s or worse to really weaken me. I feel we have become so sterilized to adversity that we hide from anything which might be out of our comfort zone.
Now I'm not saying we need to beat our heads against the wall and share drinks so that everyone gets everyone else's diseases. I am a germophobe more than most. I am also not saying that we need to go out and run 14 miles in 50 degree rain. I am simply stating that we have this wonderful resource called the Heritage Trail in a county of 100,000 people and when it rains there are maybe 10% of the normal load of people out on it. A similar lack-of-people-on-the-trail-in-the-rain happened last year when I did my special block before CIM. I fear that our fear of suffering might inhibit us from greater tasks. Astronauts will die. People will die near the equipment that I help improve. Runners pursuing their peak will get injured. I fail all the time. You will fail sometime too. Suffering often accompanies failure. We cannot hope to progress and learn and do new things without failing along the way.
In other words, we cannot be strong without exposing ourselves to weakness. This is as true for running on a trail in the rain as it is for asking a question in science class when you do not understand.