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Falling for Fall: A Runner Story

Posted Sep 18 2013 5:10pm

Fall is hands down the best season for runners. Also, for pumpkin spice. But also for runners.

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Some might argue that spring should be on top. And, of course, spring is a great season to run. The snow is melting. The shorts come out. The sun shines bright much earlier than, say, the previous three months. There is a huge sigh of relief — sometimes literal, sometimes metaphoric — that comes with spring running.

With fall, I’ve found that there isn’t a sense of relief, rather excitement that fills the senses and triggers an all out sense of total happiness. It’s a child-like sense of freedom, a feeling of can-do and will-do.

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Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that fall running is all sunshines and unicorns. In fact, over the last week, as the mornings have cooled off to what I consider the absolute perfect running temperature, I’ve struggled with my mornings outdoors. A few of the factors preventing the nirvana I so hope to achieve each morning:

My freezing bedroom. There are few things as satisfying as waking up with the window cracked, the cool morning air flowing through, tickling your feet sticking out from under the covers. It’s so great, actually, that it makes it physically difficult to get out of bed. All I want to do on these cool fall mornings is snuggle back under the covers and drift off to dreamland. Just another five minutes quickly turns to fifty, and all of a sudden, you’ve slept through the entire opportunity you had to run. That’s what we call a fall runner fail.

Temperature fluctuations. From August to September, and then September to October, the temperature can be all over the place. One morning, it’s humid and 95 (true story; just flash back to last week). The next day, it’s 55 and dry. Knowing what to wear and how to prepare for these morning runs is surprisingly more difficult than in the dead of winter. At least then, you know to layer up and suck it up. This time of the year, one wrong choice of leggings over shorts, and you could find yourself overheating a mere three blocks into the run (or, on the flip side, shivering).

All the weird things my body does. I don’t know what the physiological reasons are for this — whether there even are physiological reasons — but each time the seasons change, I find that my body reacts with some weird twinge or sensation. This fall, my calves have been tightening up like crazy, and I’ve had trouble loosening them up until practically the fourth mile, which at that point, the damage has already been done. What that’s led to is achilles tendinitis. It’s happened to me before, and no doubt, it’ll happen to me again. Good times.

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(Stretch, sulk and stuff.)

Increasingly darker mornings. I know this will only continue to get worse and worse, the mornings getting darker and darker until daylight savings comes along and – bam – another month or so of sunny morning runs. At 6:30 in the morning, New York City is still dim. For now, it’s really a matter of talking myself into running each time I open my eyes.

While these seem like points of complaint, rest assured that they’re really not. When running becomes such a routine that you hardly think about your wakeup, your clothes,  your route — when you literally step into sneakers as habitually as squeezing the toothpaste onto your brush — these obstacles become mere hiccups. It’s as annoying but manageable as wrestling the last drop out from the tube.

Sometimes you just do things! ―  Scott Jurek Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

I love this simple quote. For one, it’s applicable to so much more than running. But for runners, it really is a gem.

Sometimes the air wafts through your window, tempting you to flutter your eyes back to sleep. But you know that running — or breaking a sweat, and doing something (anything!) good for you will be what keeps you going through the day. And so, you just do it.

Sometimes, you step outside and realize that you definitely shouldn’t have worn shorts — leggings would have been a far smarter choice. There’s no time to waste though, because changing would mean compromising a mile or so. And so, you just do it. You just run, and you eventually warm up, and you forget that you were ever cold.

Sometimes, you get strange twinges in your body, and so you cut your run short. You hope and hope and hope during those first few miles that your heel will stop aching and your calf will let up. But they never do, because that’s how injuries begin. And so you listen, you slow down, you shave a couple of miles off the surface and you find a way to make up for missed opportunity. Maybe it’s with lunges. Maybe it’s with a latte — just because you deserve a warm, deliciously overpriced drink. Who knows. Sometimes, you just listen to what you want, and you just do it because it’s right.

Sometimes, the darkness outside tricks your body into thinking it’s the middle of the night, when really, it’s dawn, it’s time to get up, it’s time to start your day, it’s time to break a sweat and move your body before nine hours of sitting at a desk. Sometimes, you just do things, because in the end, you know it’s for the best.

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This week has been filled with fall morning runs — some great, some less than great. No matter how difficult it’s been to adjust — and that’s exactly what fall and any seasonal change is, an adjustment — there will always be reminders that every step is in the right direction. From the changing colors of the leaves to the bone-chilling breeze to the sound of rustling trees that surround, fall running simply can’t be beat.

  • What is your favorite season to run?

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