It is that time of year again:
- the darkness has set in – like it's dark at 4:30 here in Vancouver
- the rains have arrived with a vengeance to make up for the relatively dry summer,
- the "big" races have happened, it's time to throttle back and think about next year
But it doesn't mean that running has stopped; it just means a refocus to adjust to a changing environment and mindset. And to accept that no matter how much pussy-footing you do, your feet are going to get wet!
It was a delight when my friends George and Gail sent out the invitations for the third now-annual PoCo Night Run a week or two ago. This is a route they put together along dykes and river trails starting just outside their doorstep in the otherwise suburban environment of Port Coquitlam. Of course, seeing as it was dark at 4:30, bringing lights were mandatory. The idea was for a few friends to get together and get out for a relatively long 30km run, then return for a pot-luck and some autumnal revelry.
It was a delightful run under unusually clear skies, and while people generally ran their own pace, it ended up with the main group all connecting up and finishing the last 15km or so together. We were all out for fun and a good run, and it proved to be a great forum to catch up with friends I hadn't seen for a little while. We returned to a warm house with the food already prepared and set to go by the few who were on the sick list (obviously swine flu if all the papers are right) and some early starters or short loopers. Wine was uncorked and beer caps popped, and the troubles of the world were all solved once again.
Due to the general cool and wet conditions these days, it just isn't practical to get out for those good old 8 hour runs of the summer. The "long" weekend runs turn into a couple of hours, with a need to head back before hypothermia really sets in beyond already numb fingers and toes. No amount of breathable fabrics or thermal layering will prevent cold from setting in while the rain falls and you are running through another navigable body of water that used to be a trail. In addition, the snowline is creeping ever lower, so slush is another possibility.
But it takes all of 48 seconds out of the car or house before you forget the rain and cold, and you are just running in the forest again, seeing things you couldn't see when the ferns were a metre high a month or two ago, or that there is a creek gushing now where those rocks are in the summer. The puddles become part of the trail and you splash through them like a kid in a rain storm. Actually, you ARE that kid in the rainstorm - the muddier and wetter the better, if I time it right, I can splash water from under my shoe all the way up to your chest, gotcha! There are thrushes in the trees, back for the winter and whistling serenely. Flashes of bushtits and kinglets through the undergrowth, peeping from every direction. Mist rising from this little valley, the view of a distant sunny peak from the top of that next climb. It is what you make it.
Not every adventure has to be 36 hours in duration; beauty and friendship are where you find them and what you make them, regardless of the season or the distance.