Confessions of a Ballerunner

Essays on Sports, Arts, Culture, and Life

‘Bad Idea Jeans’ commercial or just another night out running…


You know the quote. It goes something like this: “the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result” – Albert Einstein. So, why do I still insist on ‘breaking’ the cardinal rule of running and loading up with a lavish meal before heading out the door?! It’s the same drill every time. I get home from work. I’m famished. I head to the fridge and nosh down on some dark chocolate-covered almonds, grab a peanut butter sandwich, maybe a slice of cheese and a glass of milk, then out I go, thinking I’m going to Usain Bolt myself down the canal path. Yeah, all that acutely consumed protein and fat is definitely the rocket fuel of world record setters. (Not!). If my gi tract could talk, I’m sure it would be cursing me for my repeatedly ill-timed and ill-composed food. Especially after only allowing my stomach a half-hour to digest it all. And yet, I repeat this pre-run nutritional pattern over and over again, thinking I’ll be fine this time… Insanity!


Alas, Rule # 1 was not the only running rule I broke tonight. Because of being chilled by the ‘arctic cold’ air-conditioning blowing at me all day long at my workplace, I made a rookie error in judgment (oh the shame!) and overdressed for my run. Being overheated on a run due to excessive clothing is the worst. It’s no fun being cold either, but being hot on a warm, muggy night is just so unpleasant. (Especially when you add in the black flies that collide with your face, arms, legs and become fixed in place by your sweat.) Admittedly, tonight’s weather was a bit of a crapshoot for planning. When I biked home from work, the northeastern part of the city was filled with foreboding, dark, storm clouds with light winds out of the SSW while the south end was overcast, but bright and non-threatening. I originally was going to head out in shorts, a t-shirt, and (somewhat reluctantly) a ballcap, but then the heavens opened up and there was a torrential downpour starting just as I was about to go out the door. So, the last-minute plan B decision was to don a light jacket — my shelter against the elements. (Like a cat, I hate getting wet on a run unless it’s super-hot and humid and then the rain is soooo refreshing.) Bad idea. I have yet to find a running jacket for rainy runs that actually keeps me dry AND breathes. (Same conundrum with bicycle helmets.) So, I headed out, my black Nike cap’s long rim shielding my face from the rain, but the jacket acting like the predictable sauna I knew it would be, compelling me to unzip it most of the way and roll up the sleeves to my elbows to try and dissipate the extra heat. (I shudder to think how I must’ve looked like an older version of my 1985 tomboy self or an old school hip-hop dancer.) Of course, by now, I’m also having to contend with increasing indigestion… (So much for a fast time tonight.)


OK, normally this is a rule I follow to the letter. (Like a Golden Retriever, I hate thunderstorms and would probably dive under my bed to hide when they rolled in, if I could actually fit under there.) I know what the stats say about it being highly improbable being struck by lightning, but why do we seem to hear more and more reports of this happening to people? Plus, Ottawa’s summer thunderstorm season seems to be getting a lot more violent over the past few years. (Hello, Bluesfest stage collapse last summer?) Anyway, this rule was broken tonight as my path was illuminated by a sudden, familiar flash of light and the distant rumbling of thunder. I contemplated turning around, but I was already more than 1/3 into my distance, and I wasn’t willing to scrub this run since my schedule was not free tomorrow night. I comforted myself with the fact that there were still a number of people out walking, running, and biking. So, it can’t be that perilous, right?.. I was running among trees however. What was that they say about thunderstorms? Seek low-lying areas? Stay away from trees?.. (Probably diving into the canal wouldn’t be a wise choice either — possibility of electrocution, picking up a skin infection from the pollution…) I began to take mental notes of where I could seek shelter quickly if the storm intensified. Being a regular runner for the past 7-8 years does confer a certain empirically-acquired expertise in weather-watching (translation: being a runner turns you into an amateur climatology geek), however, so I hypothesized from the drop in temperature, the appearance of the sky and the relatively wide intervals between the lightning flashes and responsory thunderclaps that this was a series of mild, fast-moving storm cells. In short, I wasn’t overly worried about funnel clouds and tornadoes. So, I continued on. Stomach still queasy, but on the mend.

During the last 1/3 of my run, it really started to pour. I’m sure I could’ve been mistaken for someone in a wetsuit by this point; my soaking clothes were just plastered to me. My stomach felt better though, so I was heartened. I was pretty much the only (crazy) one left on the canal path at this point, but had to dodge a new hazard: speeding cars sending tidal waves of water onto the path. Forget the running jacket — I now needed hip waders and a sou’wester!?..

When I finally sloshed my way up the walk to my house, I felt vindicated. I had done it. I had not quit. I had won the battle. It wasn’t the fastest run for me, but it was the second wettest. One of those ‘character-building’ runs. (The wettest run I ever had was in Montreal running a 21-k training run through Mount Royal Park and Outremont on an oppressively hot, humid summer day. When the rain finally came, it was a total monsoon — but a refreshing one! I remember wringing water out of my clothes like a sponge when I got home. It was reminiscent of that old Sprite commercial Zulu song, ‘Rain, rain, rain, rain… Beautiful rain…’)

Stoked and totally soaked from my run, I decided to head to the pool for an hour-long work-out. I had done the hard part — completed the run — so the pool work-out was gravy. Happily, the pool ended up being a great work-out and I felt so relaxed and energized afterward… 🙂


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