It’s the first day of Autumn, and that’s awesome for a runner like me.
Let’s get one thing clear. I’m not a fair-weather runner. I say that with all respect and love for the fair-weathers out there — I was one, too, once. I know that life. You ponder running in the summer when it’s too darn hot and you say, “well, when the weather cools off a little bit and it doesn’t feel quite so much like my skin is actually boiling off of my body, maybe then I’ll get out and run.” Or maybe you made the old standby resolution at New Year’s when it was colder than my black, black heart outside and realized that perhaps the forbidding temperatures in the single digits and teens weren’t quite your speed and that, perhaps, April was in fact a much better time to start the whole running thing.
I get it. But I can’t live that way anymore.
Something happens when you push past the three mile mark in running. Up until that point, you consider yourself a jogger, maybe, or a sprinter, or maybe somebody who does a little running on the weekends or as part of a bigger exercise regimen, but past 5k it becomes serious. The training wheels come off. The drudgery of your bi-daily run has been replaced by some snarling, feral need to run. There’s no putting it off til April or October.
No, the all-weather, all-season runner knows that he (or she, obvs) will continue to run whether it’s hot enough to literally bake cookies in your buttcrack or cold enough to make buttcrack ice cream. The first hot days arrive in May and I think, with all the grim inevitability of that deep-voiced guy from the movie previews, it begins. The last balmy night in November passes and I know that Winter is coming.
The temperature in the daytime climbs steadily from seventy, to eighty, to ninety, and still we’re out there. The clever ones run before dawn or after dusk, but the lunatics are out there in the full light of day, roasting alive, logging their miles and waiting for September. But even the nightcrawlers begin to suffer in Summer. The humidity dragon sneaks in through the door you left open and makes your seventy-degree morning feel like ninety, sees you back at the house following a quick three miles looking as if you’ve just swum the English Channel. The washing machine gets a workout like it’s never known. Your significant other turns up her nose when you come in for a post-run smooch. (Okay, maybe she does that year round, but in the summer, you can identify.) You start to hate running again.
But today it’s September 23rd, and that means Fall is here, and Winter is coming. And here in Atlanta, boy, does it feel like it. This morning it was a delightful 57 degrees, cool enough to put a chill in your fingertips before you get warm from the exertion, but not so cool you even have to think about long sleeves or gloves or any of the mess that comes when the temperature really starts to drop. Cool enough to slip a windbreaker on the sprout as I strapped him into the stroller with me (yeah, he wakes up at 5:15 now to go run with me… it’s a problem). Cool enough to make you feel alive with the touch of Autumn and pumpkins and all that other stuff that fills the roughly three weeks before Winter sets in.
If there’s a perfect temperature for running, it may well be 57 degrees. After months and months of cooking inside my skin just from stepping out the door for a run, 57 degrees feels like an ice bath after a sunburn. A cool drink of water after a mouthful of habanero salsa.
I only wish the fall weather would last longer, but as any Atlanta resident knows, we get maybe three weeks of it before the bottom drops out. Time to suit up and get out there.