Tagged: rain

Water on a Hogs Back – battling the elements on the Hogs Back Road Race

The forecast for Sunday morning in Guildford didn’t look good on Friday evening. That it was going to be cold wasn’t really in question. Nor was the fact that a big weather front was going to be dumping moisture from the sky. The questions were whether that moisture was going to be falling as heavy rain or heavy snow – and whether there might be storm-force winds.

Normally, I’d only have a passing interest in Guildford’s weather, what with the Surrey town being about 25 miles south west of my house. But Guildford was also the location for the Hogs Back Road Race, an 11.7km run I’d signed up to run.

Of course, when I’d signed up, I had no idea what the weather would be like – aside from the general assumption that it might not be that pleasant, what with the race being held in Britain on the second week in December and all. But there’s not very pleasant, and there was the forecast for this weekend. With cold weather, heavy rain and/or snow, and potentially storm-force winds. Frankly, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it, especially given the course included 147 metres of climbing – the clue is in the title, since the Hog’s Back is an elongated ridge on the North Downs in Surrey.

Incidentally, I’m entirely blaming my mate and fellow runner Matt for my entry: he’d signed up first and encouraged me to join him. It was also his idea to do the ridiculously hilly Treggy 7 in Cornwall. He’s a glutton for punishment, or something.

It didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling quite at full strength. I’d been suffering from some form of mild illness, which left me a bit short of energy. I made it to yesterday’s Kingston Parkrun, but didn’t exactly set a quick time. After a restful Saturday, I felt much improved by yesterday evening, if not quite at full strength. Well enough, though, that I didn’t think I could justify sitting out the Hogs Back Road Race on account of illness – even I knew I wasn’t going to be setting a blazing pace on it.

The question about the weather hung around for most of Saturday. The confusion was that there was a big cold front over Britain, but a milder front sweeping in. What nobody quite knew is where the heavy clouds would meet the cold front.

When my alarm went off at six am on Sunday morning, the noise of rain pouring down outside gave me the answer. There was no snow. Just rain. This was probably good news, on balance, since a heavy dumping of snow could have led to the event being cancelled. When I’d gone to bed on Saturday night, I’d a quick glimpse at the Twitter feed of AAT Events, which organised the race, just in case they’d postponed it preemptively.

They hadn’t, and heavy rain on Sunday morning in Richmond-upon-Thames was a sign that there was very unlikely to be snow in Guildford, either. Again, this was, in theory, good news, since it meant the race going ahead. Yet as I contemplated leaving my house a good hour before daylight, in near-freezing conditions and with rain pouring down, this didn’t exactly seem like a good thing.

I did question my sanity for still going ahead with this when I wasn’t feeling at full strength, especially on the drive out of south London and down the A3, which involved dodging substantial patches of standing water on the road.

It was still miserably wet when I parked up on the grounds of Loseley Park, a 16th Century manor house set in what I think are lovely grounds – but which were mostly wet and bleak during my visit. Thankfully, the rain did ease off – as the forecast suggested – before the start, but it returned for much of the race.

Still, it had rained so heavily that much of the route was sodden, with standing water all over the place. The Hogs Back Road Race course, as described on the event website, is: “90% road and 10% gravel track.” This seemed roughly true. But that description was followed by the line “no mud”, which emphatically was not true. The heavy rain had washed muck all over the gravel paths. At times, the choice was to trudge through standing water or mud. Nice.

All that climbing didn’t help either. Most of the uphill was thankfully in the first half of the event, and wasn’t as bad as I feared: the climbs were mostly long but steady, rather than being brutally steep – although a few uphill hairpins didn’t help.

That said, about halfway up the first hill I realised how little energy I really had, probably a combination of illness and my relative lack of enthusiasm. I found myself ticking into some form of ‘survival mode’, and I trudged through the rest of the event at a pace that was some way from my potential – even accounting for the cold, mud, rain and hills.

I was genuinely glad to reach the finish. And I was utterly thrilled that I had a car for the weekend that featured both heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

As I drove out of Loseley Park, fingers just thawing on a warming wheel, I decided I perhaps should have trusted my instincts and sat out the race.

Of course, then the runner in me kicked in. By the time I was home, I was cheered from the feeling of having conquered such a challenge, and of having pushed myself to do something despite my instincts not to.

There was extra cheer, too, from downloading the data from my Garmin GPS running watch. I mentioned before the race was a very unusual 11.7km distance. Partly that’s because of finding a course that starts and finishes in the same place. But it also seems to be so the Hogs Back Road Race looks like this…

HogsBack

Somehow, that made it all worthwhile.

 

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Return to Cornwall: running up hills while water pours down them

After weeks of anticipation – and with some dread – last weekend it was finally time to head back down to Cornwall to take part in the Treggy 7 for the second year in a row.

Now, the dread, it must be noted, was not caused by visiting Cornwall. It’s a lovely place, tempered only by being a flipping long way from where I live in London. But Cornwall is, as previously noted, also quite a hilly place. And those hills are big. And steep. And Cornish race organisers seem to delight in coming up with routes that go up them.

The weekend followed the pattern of my previous trip: it started with the Lanhydrock Parkrun on Saturday, followed by the Treggy 7 the next morning. The Lanhydrock Parkrun, which takes place on the grounds of a beautiful National Trust property near Bodmin, also features a course dominated by hills.

Lanhydrock

It begins with a fast downhill sweep past Lanhydrock House, a castle-like Victorian mansion, before a short, steep climb uphill into the woods. Then the fun begins: a frankly terrifying, dizzying, steep descent on a bumpy, rock-strewn, tree root-lined dirt track. There’s a brief bit of flat at mid-distance, before the climbing begins: a series of steep, steep, steep uphill slogs across uneven fields and lanes. Finally, the race finishes with a final bit of steep downhill on grass to the finish.

It packs a lot of elevation change into 5k: 122 metres of elevation gain and 143 metres of elevation loss – reflecting the fact the finish is just past the start line.

Lanhydrock elevation

Still, on a fresh, clear, lovely Cornish morning it was worth the effort. When I first tackled Lanhydrock last year I stupidly forgot to take my Garmin, so perhaps mercifully I didn’t have any kilometre split times from then to try and compare my times to. But knowing the second half featured the bulk of the climbing, I realised the key to improving my form was to give myself plenty of wiggle room in the second half of the race. Having set a 22m 05s last year, I reckoned I needed to aim to complete the first 2.5k in 10m or so, giving me 12m to complete the second half.

Of course, the key to going fast in the first half was attacking that treacherous downhill, which was a big challenge in and of itself. I pushed as much as I dared, until I was at the limits of being in control. To paraphrase Buzz Lightyear, I wasn’t so much running as falling with style.

And, despite going as fast I dared – fearing that any quicker would likely pitch me rolling into the Cornish undergrowth – I was passed on all sides by fearsomely brave Cornish runners. I caught many of them on the flat bit – and then came the climbing.

It was tough. Seriously tough. Tougher than I remembered, in all honesty. It was a slog and I only just managed to run all of it. I say run, but on the steepest bit near the end it was more of a quick trudge.

Eventually, I crossed the line in 21m 55s, an improvement of 10 seconds on the previous year. A good result.

Now, my day of climbing hills wasn’t over. On a beautiful, clear day, my Cornish running buddy Matt decided we should do a spot of tourism and visit Rough Tor (pronounced like an internet router), which involved a somewhat hilly, but very pleasant walk.

Roughtor1

It was hilly, but far more relaxed than the parkrun and offered some lovely views of Cornish countryside, the Davidstow Cheddar creamery and Brown Willy. Which, as you all know, is the highest point in Cornwall.

Stop sniggering at the back there. You wouldn’t catch me laughing at a hill with ‘Willy’ in its title.

Roughtor2

Of course, the weather can change fast in Cornwall. And, sure enough, the clear skies clouded over late in the day and, late in the evening, it began to rain. A lot. And then it rained some more. A lot more.

It was still raining heavily on Sunday morning when it came time to leave for Launceston, the home of the Treggy 7. It was still raining when we got there. The rain eased up when we went to collect our race numbers an hour or so before the start. And then, when we returned to the car, it started to rain heavily again. And then it got heavier.

Rain Treggy

Around 15 minutes before the start it was raining faster than the drains could cope with. And harder than seemed at all sensible to go and do a seven-mile run in. But, displaying commitment that still seems questionable, we set off from the car and sprinted to the start. That involved descending a steep hill from Launceston’s car park to its town centre – and water was cascading down that hill at an alarming rate.

Mercifully, the rain actually eased up again as the runners assembled for the start – but it wasn’t long until it picked up again and, besides, by that point the roads were sodden. In places there were pools of water across the road; in others there were veritable streams running down the Tarmac. But it wasn’t cold and, in some ways, the conditions only added to the general merriment and challenge, even when the rain soon began to fall harder again.

Cornish rain

It also took my mind off the mighty hill that comes almost halfway through the Treggy 7, a monster slog that lasts for around a kilometre and feature 85 metres of climbing. But, once on that hill, there wasn’t much that was going to take my mind off it.

Having tackled it last year, I knew what I was in for – but strangely, unlike the previous day’s Lanhydrock hills, it wasn’t actually as bad as anticipated. I don’t quite know what that was. It was probably because it wasn’t as out and out steep in places as I’d remembered – it’s a fairly consistent climb, which meant I could lock into a pace and stick to it.

Bizarrely, as with last year, I also drew strength by seeing other people struggle. That’s not meant to sound cruel, honest. It’s just that every time I did think about walking I found myself catching a runner ahead of me who was already doing so – and the fact I had more energy than them gave me the strength to keep on going.

Once I’d finally crested the top of the hill I was in fine spirits. The hardest part of the run was done, and now I could press on. Well, that was the theory. Turns out the weather had other ideas. For a start, the rain got heavier, and predictably the roads became wetter. There was a stretch of around 20 metres or so when the road was flooded with ankle-deep water. There was no way round, so runners just had to plough through it. Of course, doing so gets your trainers soaked, and horribly squidgy for the rest of the race.

At the top of the hill the wind picked up too – an occasionally fierce headwind that slowed my significantly. Visibility was also an issue as well, with all that water splashing and smudging my glasses. That made it difficult to really push on the wet roads on the downhill run back into the town.

In the end, I reached the finish in the grounds of Launceston Castle in 49m 22s. That was nine seconds slower than I managed last year, although my 61st place was 17 positions higher (and it’s worth noting that, despite the conditions, more runners took part in the event this year).

As previously noted, the Treggy 7 organisers like to give out slightly unusual prizes – this year there was a metal Treggy 7 water flask and a four-pack of Ambrosia Rice Pudding. I will savour that rice pudding, for I definitely felt I earned it.

treggy prize

There was a weird lesson too: having been dreading the hill on the Treggy 7 course, it turned out to be the rain I should have been worried about all that time. It’s a lesson that, even when you go back to a race, the challenge is never the same twice.

* * *

Tackling a race on a particularly wet Cornish September day might not be pleasant, but recent events in Texas do give a sense of perspective. However wet I got, my temporary discomfort was absolutely nothing compared to what thousands of people in Texas went through with Tropical Storm Harvey recently.

Thanks to visiting my brother and his family living there for years, I know Houston very well – not least from tackling this year’s Chevron Houston Marathon. Seeing pictures of roads I ran along for that event transformed into rivers of deep water has been a surreal experience.

Texans are a tough bunch though, and I have no doubt the people of Houston will recover. This British runner will be thinking of them while they do.

Rain, wind, hills and traffic – welcome to Wimbledon

Waking up and drawing the curtains to find light skies and benign weather is normally a pretty good start to a day when you’re doing a race. Not this morning – because today it meant the bad weather hadn’t arrived yet.

Sure enough, 20 minutes after I’d first looked out the window, it actually began to get darker, as the bank of heavy rain that had been assuredly forecast closed in. By the time I left my house an hour later, bound for Wimbledon Common to take part in the Wimbledon 10k, it was raining hard.

You can’t control the weather, of course, and bad weather is an occupational hazard any time you enter a race in Britain (even if, as the forecasters harked on about this week, meteorological Spring has, erm, sprung). Still, it’s always a little off-putting when, the night before a run, you know that a nasty weather front is likely to be right over your head right about the time the start gun goes off.

Twenty minutes after leaving home I parked up near Wimbledon Common, and set off to collect my number from the race start. Wimbledon Common is, as you might expect, a pretty beautiful and well-kept place, but it loses it’s appeal somewhat when there’s a heavy wind, squally rain and mud underfoot. Still, that bracing wind did make it easy to spot the flags fluttering near the race start, largely by keeping them at quite the angle.

wimbledon3

Wimbledon Common looking glam

Having picked up my number, and braved a wobbly portable toilet (the wobble seemed to be partly the wind, and partly the fact it didn’t seem to be fixed to the ground properly. Either way, I was very careful while going, to avoid some unthinkable and unpleasant toppling toilet incident…), I retreated to the safety of my car until as late as humanly possible before the start. Oh, and added an extra long-sleeved running top, having realised my optimistic T-shirt set-up would clearly offer inadequate warmth.

Amazingly, come the time to decamp from my car and head to the start, the rain was beginning to ease. It was relatively light for the first few kilometres, and had actually stopped before half-distance. The wind and cold were more persistent challenges, but with the weather less of an issue I could focus a bit on what I figured the main challenge of the event: the hills.

Wimbledon Common is at the top of a hill: the race started with a plunge downhill, before then working it’s way back up through the residential streets of the not-coincidentally named Wimbledon Hill. When I decided to enter the event, it was partly because of the hills. So far this year, I’ve mostly done races this year on relatively flat courses, and I wanted to take in some races that would be charitably described as ‘undulating’ in order to force myself to push more on hills.

wimbledon2

The challenge was pushing hard enough to make the most of the early downhill section, without using up all the energy for the subsequent uphill. I seemed to get my pacing sorted pretty well, although it was a bit humbling to watch some of the quick runners doing the simultaneously run Wimbledon Half Marathon pull away from me, despite knowing they’d have to do a second lap. But, once I’d completed most of the climbing, and was running along The Ridgway (so called, you’ll be amazed to know, because it’s a road that runs along a ridge), I discovered that the biggest challenge of the Wimbledon 10k wasn’t the weather, or the hills: it was the traffic.

Yes, the traffic – and both automotive and pedestrian. The Ridgway is a fairly major thoroughfare in South West London, and at just before 1000hrs on a Sunday morning plenty of people were setting off on Sunday morning jaunts. Which made it a bit of a challenge when the runners needed to cross from one side of the road to the other. The only tactic was to run along one pavement, trying to focus on your normal pace, while also keeping an eye out for a break in the traffic to make a crossing. It wasn’t easy, especially because some drivers – both on the main roads and those traversing the residential roads the event went down – seemed determined not to make any allowance for the runners.

It got more challenging too: the final kilometrres of the course ran directly up Wimbledon High Street, in the quite posh part of town known as Wimbledon Village. At one level, it’s a lovely place to run: there were lots of posh shops and cafes to admire, for one thing. Except, of course, those cafes were attracting plenty of people for a Sunday brunch, using the same pavements the runners were charging down. It wasn’t exactly an ideal combination, especially because a small minority of pedestrians strolling in Wimbledon Village seemed put out there was a run going on, and pointedly made no effort to create a bit of room.

wimbledon4

Now, they’re shared roads and pavements, and it’s not like the runners had any particular priority or right of way over cars or pedestrians – something that was made clear in the pre-race notes. But still, a little bit of courtesy wouldn’t go amiss at times.

Again, this was only a small minority of people; several others took the time to clap or shout encouragement, which is always hugely welcome.

Thankfully, since the race field was relatively small, it was pretty spaced out as I ran the High Street section – but I imagine things might have been interesting for the half-marathoners on their second lap, when the shops would have been open as well as the cafes.

Nothing cost me too much time either, and if 41m 21s was the slowest of the five 10k races I’ve done so far this year, in the circumstances it felt like one of my stronger efforts.

Even better, in a fit of great timing, the sun was almost peeking through the clouds by the time I finished. Which made it a pleasant day to walk back to Wimbledon for a post-run coffee. And don’t worry: I gave the runners still gamely plugging on plenty of space – and plenty of encouragement as well…

wimbledon1

Heating up in Texas: a Houston Marathon weather update

Yes, I’m writing about the weather again. Look, I’m British, it’s what we do. We talk about the weather. Especially when a) the weather is really very odd, as it frequently seems to be in Texas, and b) my experience on the Houston Marathon will be largely dependent on the conditions I’ll encounter on the course.

When last I wrote about the weather, Texas was proving surprisingly cold, and I was wrapping up as warm as I possible could for training runs in temperatures of -3C. Well, funny story… it’s now warm again.

On Sunday evening I went for a 10k jog in beautiful sunshine but with the temperatures barely above freezing – cold enough for me to break out The Hat I Can’t Throw Away.

On Tuesday morning, less than 48 hours later, I went for a gentle training jog at around eight am – and, despite cloud cover and very light rain, found myself running in around 17C heat and a surprisingly amount of humidity. Instead of freezing, I was sweating.

It was… confusing, to say the least.

Still, it was also useful, since – for what it’s worth, at any rate – the current forecast is for temperatures to feature daytime highs of around 25-27C (that’s about 77-80F) between now and Sunday, with overnight lows of around 15-16C (60-62F). Yes, those are overnight lows that are 15C warmer than it was in the middle of the day just four days ago. Like I said, Texas weather in January is bonkers.

Anyway, at least the conditions right now should approximate what the runners in the Houston Marathon will encounter on Sunday – although there is a greater chance of rain showers come the weekend. Showers wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, as long as they don’t get too heavy, and there’s another current Texas weather condition worrying me a little more: the wind.

It’s been pretty gusty round here recently, with quite a breeze rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s creating the sort of potent gusts that occasionally cause your car to wobble when you’re driving down a highway. And while such a breeze can be quite cooling – useful on a marathon – it can also be really difficult if you end up caught running in a headwind.

flagsedit

Wind: good for flags, less so for running into

But hey, you can’t control the weather on race day, so when the time comes to start the marathon I can only run in the conditions that I find. But that won’t stop me being confused and slightly obsessed by the forecast.

After all, Texas weather in January is bonkers and unpredictable, and I’m British. Talking about the weather is what we do…

Which came first: the parkrun or the rain?

Saturday October 1.

07.00: Wake-up, clamber out of bed, pull back curtains.

Clear blue skies, sun shining. Beautiful morning for a parkrun. Roll on 09.00.

07.25: Finish first cup of tea of the day.

Blue skies now interspersed with small fluffy clouds. Still a lovely morning.

07.45: Breakfast time (porridge with sultana, blueberries and a light drizzle of agave nectar, plus a second cup of tea).

Skies now mostly cloudy. Doesn’t look that threatening though. Still a pleasant morning for a parkrun.

08.10: Finished breakfast. Pre-run banana and coffee.

Big grey clouds appearing in the distance. This looks… threatening.

08.30: Get changed into running kit.

Grey clouds quite close. Rain seems likely – but not imminent. Might get parkrun done in the dry.

08.45: Leave house to head to parkrun.

Grey clouds overhead, and dark clouds closing in. Yeah, it’s going to rain… 

08.55: Arrived at parkrun start.

Slight drops of rain, rumble of thunder in the distance…

08.58: Pre-parkrun briefing begins

It’s raining. Quite hard. Joy!

09.00-ish: Parkrun starts.

It’s raining hard. I’m wet.

09.20-ish: Finish parkrun.

Properly pouring down. I’m soaked.

09.45: Arrive home. Wriggle my way out of soaking running kit. Have shower to warm up.

Still pouring down.

10.00: Finish shower in time to watch Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying.

Rain has stopped. Sun begins to break through clouds…

Here’s the thing with running when it’s rain: it’s not all that much of an issue. Sure, it’s not pleasant if it’s particularly heavy, especially when soaking running kit begins to cling to your skin. But, in truth, the reality in rain is rarely as bad as the thought of running in rain. A bit of rain can even help to keep you cool when you’re running.

Last weekend I did the Great Bristol Half-Marathon, and ran through several short, sharp, heavy showers. And they were good: they helped to keep me cool when otherwise I might have got hot and sweaty (a nod of respect at this point to the enthusiastic Bristol spectators, who kept cheering and clapping in the rain, when many would have been running for cover).

But the worst time for rain? Just before you start running, especially in a race. If you’re cold and wet before you start running, it dampens your motivation to actually go running. Once you start, there’s a certain perverse joy to conquering the conditions. And even a motivation: the quicker the run, the sooner you can get somewhere dry.

Still, if you can time your run to avoid the rain, it’s generally more fun. But if you’re taking part in a race or run that has a set start time, all you can do is keep your fingers crossed…

The road to Houston starts in… Bristol

Ahead of this year’s London Marathon, I completed a pair of half-marathons as part of my training and preparation routine. That seemed to work for me, so I decided to do the same thing ahead of the Houston Marathon. So, having taken my pick from a whole host of half-marathons, my road to Houston, Texas started in… Bristol.

Now, heading to the south west of England to prepare for a marathon in Texas might seem odd. Perhaps it is odd. But, hey, my preparation for this year’s London Marathon kicked off with a half-marathon in Wokingham – a place I’d never even been to before. By comparison, Bristol makes total sense.

After all, Bristol is where it all started for me. Quite literally: I was born there, and then grew up in the nearby town of Clevedon, on the Somerset coast. Despite that, I’ve never actually done a competitive run there – so taking part in the Great Bristol Half-Marathon felt like filling in a missing piece in my running ‘career’.

There was some other logic to picking Bristol, too: the half-marathon course is pretty flat, much like Texas, and it’s a big city race that attracts the best part of 10,000 starters. Aside from the London Marathon, this was by far the largest race I’d done, so it was a good chance to practice all the logistics and complications that come with big city races. There’s the logistics that come with getting to the start of a major race with lots of other people, working your way into the correct start pen, and leaving your baggage in the correct place.

Some clever planning and car park picking meant I reached the race village with around 90 minutes to spare: the perfect amount of time to warm-up, drop off my bag, eat my pre-race banana, slurp a pre-race coffee and, predictably, go to the toilet quite a few times.

The Bristol Half-Marathon is, to borrow a football cliche, a race of two halves. Not two half-marathons, obviously. The course begins near Bristol’s harbour just outside the city centre – shortly after the start you can look across the harbour and admire Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain.

bristol-half

The route then heads up the portway, a dual carriageway that runs up a valley alongside the River Avon. After about four miles, there’s a hairpin and you get to run down the other side of the road. It’s basically straight and pretty much flat – quite good for running, really. If you were being picky, you might suggest that section was a little on the dull side. Then again, you do get to run underneath Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge twice. Yup, the race is a pretty good advert for Isambard Kingdom Brunel…

The run up and down the portway effectively makes up the first half of the course: flat, wide and pretty straight. And then everything changes.

The second half is much more like an inner city run, with a series of sharp twists and turns, short, sharp bursts of elevation and a series of surface changes – including a few cobbled bits. Cobbles, as you might imagine, aren’t especially fun to run on near the end of a half-marathon. Especially when a series of rain showers has made them treacherously slippery.

That might sound critical, but it isn’t meant to be: the second half was really fun, giving a great chance to admire some of Bristol’s sights in a way I haven’t got the chance to do before. The route took me past the docks, the edge of the city centre and past the remains of Bristol’s castle. It even ran quite close to Temple Meads Train Station, which I mention only because it was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel…

Still, while the second half was fun, it was quite tough. I’d set myself the target of matching my half-marathon PB, set in the build-up to the London Marathon. I messed things up a bit by going a bit quicker than intended through the middle part of the race, which meant I didn’t have too much in reserve when the course became twisty and more challenging late on.

I eventually crossed the line about 50 seconds down on my half-marathon PB, but still very happy with my effort. It’s kind of hard not to be happy when – humblebrag alert! – that time was good enough to be 264th fastest out of more than 7000 finishers…

Most importantly, it was all solid preparation for Houston – and a good way to start the build-up to marathon number two. Although, somewhere around the streets of Bristol, the realisation that this was the start of another huge training effort did sink in. Here we go again…

Random running annoyances No.7: downpours

I wasn’t planning to be sat ay my laptop writing this right now. Really, I wasn’t. I’d planned to be outside, taking in the fresh air on a refreshing evening run. And then it started raining. Heavily. Oh dear.

Here’s the thing: running in the rain is pretty unpleasant (see my countdown of rubbish running conditions for more…). Sure, it’s only water, but heavy rain soaks your clothes to the point where they start clinging heavily, and it can be hard to see where you’re going (especially if, like me, you wear glasses). I’ve often gone out for a run when it’s raining, which is what you have to do on those depressing days when it just rains non-stop. But at least you can prepare for it.

What’s far more annoying are days like we’ve had in Britain recently: reasonably warm days where generally pleasant weather is suddenly interrupted, almost at random, by ferociously heavy showers – the short of downpours that are accompanied by thunder and lightning and get you soaked. Not just wet, you understand, but soaked. It’s a whole different level of unpleasantness to run in.

My worst experience of a downpour came when I was visiting my brother in Texas over Christmas. I’d been stuck inside on a dark, wet and stormy day, and when the rain stopped and the sky started to brighten I took my chances and went for a run. I’d been out of my brother’s house for about two minutes before the rain returned. Heavily. I got absolutely drenched. It was a good lesson in how changeable the Texas weather can be – something I’ll need to consider in the build-up to the 2017 Houston Marathon.

That example details why downpours are so annoying – they’re impossible to plan for. Which means they can ruin all your best running plans.

Today I walked home from work in cool but dry conditions that looked fairly benign. I could have gone out for a run instantly, but decided I’d eat first and try my recently pioneered late-evening run again… and then it started raining. Not just raining. It was pouring. The old man was, indeed, snoring. Whatever that means. (Really, what does that song mean? I have no idea.)

It was, all told, incredibly rubbish conditions for running. And, an hour or so later, it’s still raining. Hence why I’m sitting here. And that sparks the really annoying bit…

I really want to go for a run tonight. I had yesterday off running, so I’m incredibly keen to go. But it’s raining. It’s not that heavy now, so perhaps I should just go, and accept I’m going to get wet.

But wait! The sky looks a bit brighter on the horizon. The weather forecast suggests it’s not that bad between the heavy showers. So if I wait a bit, the rain might stop, and making my run far more pleasant. So let’s wait for a bit.

But wait! Time is getting on. Even if the rain does stop, it might not stay dry for all that long, and I might end up getting wet anyway. And the longer I wait the later it gets. So perhaps I should just push on and go now.

But wait! Is it really worth getting soaked just to get a short run in on a Thursday evening? Maybe I should just take the night off and go tomorrow. It won’t hurt me to have a night off, will it? Aside from that feeling of guilt that comes from not going for a run when you planned to…

Yup, it’s the classic downpour dilemma. And that’s why I’m sitting here writing this – it’s basically a stalling tactic. But I’ve pretty much finished now. And the rain hasn’t quite stopped. Time to make a decision on much I want to have a run, and how wet I want to get…

UPDATE: It stopped raining. I went for a run. I got a bit wet, but not too much. It was fine. Well, apart from the huge puddles and standing water caused by the rain. Having to dodge puddles is very annoying. But that’s a Random Running Annoyance for another day…

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Here comes the rain: running conditions ranked (part 2)

What are the absolute worst conditions to run in? Rather than conduct a scientific study to find out, I just made up a list off the top of my head. You can read the first part here. This is the top ten countdown of the worst conditions to run in, in descending order of general unpleasantness.

10: Heavy rain

Can be unpleasant. If I wanted to get this wet with my exercise, I’d go swimming.

9: Ice

I love ice hockey. I don’t love trying to find some semblance of grip on a patch of black ice while running. Comedy pratfalls are common.

8: Indoors

Alright, technically ‘indoors’ isn’t actually a climactic condition. But you can run indoors – on a treadmill. It sounds great: you can escape the weather and run inside, in controlled conditions. But in my experience, it’s a bit boring. Unless you’re in a gym with a really nice view out the window, you’re just staring at the same thing while running.

7: Thunderbolts and lightning

Very, very frightening.

6: Wind

There are two types of wind that afflict runners. Ahem. The one relevant to this piece is never fun to run in. Why so bad? Because you can’t see it coming. Well, I guess you can if you own a wind sock, but that’s a luxury few enjoy.

Running into a headwind is mighty frustrating: it’s as energy-sapping as running up a steep hill. Except you can’t see the thing that’s causing you pain, and you never really know when it’s going to stop.

Of course, the wind can benefit you, if you can get pushed along by a tailwind. But the trouble with wind is that it’s never consistent. Somehow you just know that, after you’ve spent interminable miles trudging into a headwind, the wind will drop or change direction before you benefit from that tailwind.

5: Hail

It’s kind of like running in the rain, but it hurts when it hits you.

4: Wind and heavy rain

It’s like running with someone spraying a hosepipe at you. With cold water. Yeah, don’t like this.

3: Wind, heavy rain and dark

It’s like running with someone spraying a hosepipe at you. With cold water. In the dark. Yeah, really don’t like this.

2: Wind, heavy rain and cold

A strong wind makes you cold. Getting wet makes you colder. So being hit by wind and rain when it’s already cold? It’s about as miserable as you can get when it comes to running conditions. What could make it worse?

1: Wind, heavy rain, cold and dark

No. Just no.

Why I’m running: I’ve entered the 2016 London Marathon to raise money for the South West Children’s Heart Circle. Please sponsor me by clicking the button below

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