Attention All Runners: October Is Almost Here, By Steve MacLaughlin

September 1, 2007 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Let me begin by apologizing for how esoteric this blog is about to be. I am a runner; this is about running; this is for runners. Non-runners may not quite get it. Some people think running is stupid. There are some nights when I think running is stupid. That being said, I will try to make this interesting to everyone, but forgive me if I forget that not everyone understands this addiction. Sometimes I don’t quite understand it myself. This blog was inspired by a conversation I was having with David Finfrock the other day about how we are both getting very excited about the fall.

I remember my freshman year of college at Rutgers. I was like most students. I ate, drank and slept most of the time, and what time was left was divided between studying and being outside exercising and having fun. It was late October and we were playing flag football. I will never forget how we were dressed. Pants; sweatshirts; even hats and gloves. New Jersey can get really cold, really fast. We had an amazing snow storm that year. This has nothing to do with my point, but I love snow and we all spent the winter being kids. Then spring rolls around. I think it was late March when my friends and I were playing softball one day. The weather was amazing. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and some guys even took their shirts off.

Me being the budding meteorologist and generally curious cat that I am, I started looking at the numbers and discovered that the day we were playing football (October) and the day we were playing softball (March) were identical. Same temperature. Same wind. Same sky. And yet we were dressed like we were in the Yukon Territory on that October day while that March day inspired some of my most cocky friends to show off their bare abs. The point is our bodies are amazing machines that adapt to pretty much any type of weather, but we adapt based on what we experienced last. 50 Degrees in October is cold after a mild autumn. 50 degrees in March feels like summer when you’re coming out of the brutal, unforgiving winter months.

That brings me to running outdoors in Texas. For eight months out of the year, North Texas might be just about the best place on the planet to exercise out in nature. Then there are the three to four months where every step forces explatives to fly from a runner’s mouth. When I run in the summer I think and say things I am ashamed of; I certainly cannot repeat them here. That’s what the Texas summer heat does to people. It makes us crazy. And running in it is even crazier; next to impossible. I do understand that some people like running in the heat, but the basic physiological fact is that running in the Texas summer heat is inefficient and sometimes dangerous. I like a good challenge, but you risk injury and you begin to break down muscle instead of fat. It’s exhausting and there’s always the threat of heat stroke.

This summer actually started off okay. All that rain we got early kept the temperature down into July. Then the rain stopped and running became a mental, emotional and physical grind that made walking a viable daily option. Oh, and the late rain kept the mosquitos out longer and nightly bug bites were just terrific to deal with. I’d wake up with scratches all over my body from scouring my itchy skin in my sleep. Okay, I’ll stop complaining now. October is just weeks away and that is like Christmas for a runner in this part of the country, so, smiles everyone.

I believe October is the best month of the year for running (or walking or biking or any outdoor activity) because summer is over but winter has not yet arrived. Even here in North Texas, we can have some brutal winter nights where it stings just to be outside. I actually prefer winter weather to July or August, but I am from the east coast and know not everyone likes to be outside in January or February.

But the main reason why October (and even November and December) is bliss goes back to that college experience I described above. Our bodies adapt, but really react to their most recent experiences. October is the time of year when it’s cooling off but my body is still conditioned to running in that sweltering heat and humidity. My body gets a jolt. It’s like running on air. It’s like running in air conditioning. I get to the finish line and want to run more. It’s like those athletes from hot climates that keep winning our American marathons. When you’ve conditioned your body to struggle and succeed in the most extreme of conditions, a slight drop in temperature or humidity makes you invincible. Even this past week was easier than the week before. It’s still summer and it’s still tough to run outside, but now that conditions are getting better, every run is stronger than the last.

I just went to Foot Locker today to buy new sneakers and I’m not gonna break them out until October 1st. That is my day. Between the new shoes, the cooling temperatures, the lower humidity and the comfort of knowing summer won’t be back for an entire human gestation period, I will fly like Superman. Barring any injuries, my runs just get better and better and better until the spring.

I still love running in March and April, but each run gets a little bit tougher than the last. Maybe it’s all in my head; knowing we are approaching summer. But in reality, my body starts to feel the stress of the warming weather after being conditioned to running in the winter months. The human body is actually quite efficient in the cold; a typical winter night is much easier on the body than a typical summer night as long as you dress properly and in layers. People in New York or Chicago or Boston may not see it that way; their winters are not like our winters, but Texans get rewarded in the winter for the pain we feel in the summer. That October weather I crave is almost identical to the weather in April, but in April each run is getting deeper into the hot season and therefore a little bit harder. The weather this past week felt much like June weather. In June, I can barely finish. This past week, while it wasn’t easy, I did feel pretty good. Same weather. Different results.

So, if you are a runner, congratulations on making it thru the summer and please join me in wishing all outdoorspeople a Happy October. If you are not a runner but long to be, this is the best time to go out and see what you’ve got. The weather in North Texas is on your side for the next few months. We should all take advantage of it, because we all know what awaits us next summer.

Enjoy,
Steve Mac

One post-script: I am a huge baseball fan and if October is like Christmas for runners, it is like a month long birthday party for baseball fans. To have both together is simply too much to handle. I will be in some truly euphoric utopia. I am not sure if I will even make it to November.

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3 Comments »

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  1. Every word is so true. People who don’t run, don’t understand. A runner can step outside in the Texas Summer and tell you the temperature, humidity percentage, and wind speed…from all that information, a runner then decides what kind of run they will do. If you’re like me…in a typical Texas Summer, if I don’t run before 8am, it’s treadmill time (which totally stinks). The weather last Tuesday was the best running weather we’ve had since the rain stopped in July. It just energized me and got me excited for the future sub 90’s days to come! I guess knowing the 80’s and below are near, help make the few more 90’s day left-more bearable.

    Thanks for addressing the runners in North Texas! I’m a huge weather fan and running just makes me love it even more!

  2. From one runner to another, “Relentless forward motion!” I look forward to seeing you at some of the local Fort Worth runs this coming fall!

  3. I just wanted to comment on the weather differences that you pointed out in your comments….I am also a big weather fan; and, I used to think that it is crazy that days in one month could be so similar to days in another and yet feel so different.

    I am so glad to know that I am not crazy after all.

    I am not a runner. I am more of a spectator….I will be on the sidelines cheering you on!


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