I’ve had a few gym memberships, and I’ve never been able to stick with them.  Call it an attention thing, I can’t seem to make the static stimuli of the treadmill scenario work for me.  As a result, there are  few weather-related events that I will not at least make an attempt to run through.  And in Portland this can be a rainy gamble, sometimes the rain wins. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I even put down a PR for my 5 mile loop.  Sometimes the biggest battle is making it out of the blankets.  Lately the biggest struggle I’m having is the dark.  I don’t mind the cold or rain nearly as much in the daylight. Most days I’m glad to run in the cold and/or rain, happily sloshing along, breathing icicles, but I’d be lying if I said winter’s early and incessant dark wasn’t a bitch on my mental and physical resolve.

Outdoor outfitters will have us think that there are no bad conditions, only bad gear.  Believing this to be mostly true, I’ve prepared myself for the season with would-be waterproof running clothing and a headlamp. This is another hurdle to get through however, since it takes me about twice as long to get ready to head outside.  Hat. Headlamp. Wicking layers. Waterproof layers. Gloves.  It’s a process, and I suppose if I were a more responsible runner I’d have a reflective vest of some sort to add to the mix. On really dark nights or mornings I’ve attached my bike light to my pants, but this presents its own unique set of challenges.  My apologies to any fellow motorists I may have inadvertently blinded while bobbing up and down.

I’ve recently reached a point where I’m a little exhausted by it all.  Running itself is easy, and fun. However, until the spring I’ve got about 6 layers, a tiny pool of undulating illumination, very wet shoes, and spirit-breaking cold to contend with.  By the time I’m ready to go, I look like an annoyed Michelin man masquerading as a coal miner (take note, as this may be reprised as a Halloween costume at some point).  As if this weren’t enough, my get-up terrifies our dog, who is normally a tail-flailing, elated, and steadfast running companion.  Now picture moving all that down the road in the frigid dark rain, and the gym membership is looking mighty appealing once again.  This always happens: I think I’m doing fine, just me, my shoes and the open road.  And then as I begrudgingly shuffle past the brightly lit 24 Hr Fitness, daydreaming of summer sun, I start to seriously re-evaluate my moratorium on gyms.

That’s not to say all winter runs are disappointing, I’ve had some pretty triumphant ones, when everything comes together. The headlamp sits just right on my forehead, the jostling light scattering precisely where I need it to avoid sidewalk cracks. The rain sweeps down like a dramatic movie scene and is just hard enough to be extra motivating.  The Shuffle seems uncannily in tune with my mental state and selects the perfect succession of songs to propel my soggy shoes along.  The reality sets back in as I towel off a soaked golden retriever, shivering, sniffling and clammy, making my own little puddle of unsightliness on the laundry room floor.

What this town needs is seasonal gym memberships…November through April? Or maybe I just need to continue reminding myself of the victorious sensation of fighting the driving rain, pushing through the stinging wind, to come out a different human on the other side.


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