Here in the great Pacific Northwest it’s the start of the rainy season. For the next 12 months, there will be a steady drizzle from the skies, then it will start all over again Actually, we have killer weather here, a little bit of everything and if you give it ten minutes, you’ll get something different. and while it sometimes feels like it rains all year long, truthfully, we get to enjoy all four seasons. Fall is terrific running weather of course, the red and gold leaves begin to fall and the local trails and streets can become a carpet of color. The cooler temperatures are perfect for longer runs, while the crisp air helps to invigorate the lungs and the slight chill before getting warmed up is enough to get the heart pumping.
I have learned a lot about barefoot running in the rain recently and thought this would be a good opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned.
The first thing I’ve learned is that its damn fun! Running in the rain is wet, slightly cold, a little chilly to the muscles and your feet are cold – but its fun! It’s fun in a “I remember when I was a kid” type of way. Gliding over wet pavement and concrete, through muddy trails and dripping evergreens is an awesome feeling when you can feel every bit of the way with your toes.
I’ve found that the paint striping on streets and curbs can be slippery. Fallen leaves and wet clay can be like a greased pig – so be careful! Pavement can have as much temperature variation cold as it does when it’s hot outside. I have also learned that the ground feel while going barefoot allows you to really respond quickly and safely when you begin to slip. There is an immediate feedback mechanism when your toes and feet begin to slide and your body will strive to automatically compensate and search for better footing and balance. Because of the light step and low impact that I am making as a barefoot runner, when I begin to slide, the effort to recover is so minimal that I barely notice the interruption.
I have rediscovered that puddles are cool. It’s childishly fun to go streaking through the puddles. A note of caution though because a puddle is similar to a field of grass in one respect: you can’t see the ground underneath them. With grass you can’t see whats lying underneath – rocks, holes, dog poo, etc. With puddles, there’s great fun in going through them, but recognize that there is probably some debris in the bottom of those puddles that you will need to be sensitive to. I happily splash through smaller puddles but I work to avoid large puddles unless I’m very familiar with the route.
You’re going to get wet. Wetter even than in shoes. You’re bare feet will splash water and dirt up higher on your ankles, calves, legs, etc. But really, if you’ve come this far in barefoot running, who cares about a little dirt and water. Sure you’ll get dirty but you are also going to get dry faster. No wet shoes and socks to deal with. When I get home, it’s a simple matter to wash off and dry my feet and then I’m good for the next time. I don’t have my wet and muddy shoes that need to be dealt with or smelly wet socks piling up. A definite plus and one of the great side benefits of barefoot running – you don’t need anything to go run, just go!
The mantra of “if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” can be a great partner in the rain. In a rainstorm, there’s a lot of distraction with the main ones being wet and cold. It’s hard to focus on the fundamental form and stride when your focused on being miserable. In the rain, it’s even more important to focus inward and concentrate on how you move through the run. By shifting the focus away from the discomfort and onto the fundamentals and moving through the environment, you can then work on absorbing the environment around you more. As an example by taking my focus away from what I could not control ( the rain) I have been able to run a PR, speed around a rabbit trying to avoid the rain, I’ve raced a small family of deer ( they won but I gave good chase for a hundred yards!), and I have waved at a bunch of friendly car honks. Truthfully, I’ve not been able to dodge all the raindrops, but I’ve managed to outrun a few!