I am a runner. I am not very fast, but I can keep going. I sign up for races periodically so I have external goals to meet, and because there’s something amazing and wonderful about a community of folks all getting together much too early on a weekend morning to do a mildly crazy thing.
This past Sunday was the Berkeley half-marathon. It’s a lovely race with strong community support and a challenging but pretty course, though I really chose it because I had run the first three years of the race and wanted to keep my streak alive. The weather for Sunday said there was a 50% chance of rain, but looking at the forecast carefully the worst of the storm was supposed to hit on Saturday and then taper off.
Sunday morning was cool and cloudy, perfect running weather. There was a hint of sun breaking through the clouds and I was hoping it wouldn’t get too hot before I could finish. Turns out, that wasn’t a problem.
It started sprinkling just as I finished mile two. It was lovely, even refreshing, just a little damp in the air to keep everyone from overheating. Then it started to get wetter. Around mile seven it was definitely raining. By mile nine it was a downpour. It didn’t help that in the ninth mile we were on a flat trail with the Bay on one side of us and the highway on the other. With no buildings to act as windbreaks or offer protection it felt a little like what I imagine clothes feel being inside a washing machine.
Coming off the trail I could see folks in front of me running to the far right to get around something, as I approached I saw that a massive puddle had formed. I thought about it for a bit and then splashed straight through. My feet and shoes weren’t going to get any wetter.
The rest of the race was about finding a way mentally to be okay with being soaking wet. I aimed for my inner five-year-old who wanted to jump in every puddle ever and to the best of my ability let her take over. I took off my gloves – by then they were holding water against my skin instead of keeping me dry or warm – and wrung them out. I skipped the last water stop thinking I could just suck on my shirt if I needed a drink. And I passed a surprising number of people. Damp is doable for almost every runner, but drenched is really hard. I wasn’t passing folks because I was faster than they were. I was passing them because they were spending energy fighting the now inevitable wet while I was chanting the mantra “wetter is faster”.
I turned the final corner and could see the finish line three blocks away. I kicked with everything I had left and crossed the finish line in a good time. I could hear the announcer over the loudspeakers saying, “Anyone can run in clear weather. But only the strong can run in the rain.”
In the finish area runners were getting their medals and bananas, their water and space blankets, the usual post-race food and swag. Everyone was smiling and laughing and chatting with strangers. The extra effort of wet made this community of runners closer than ever. Now we have a story to tell. ‘Were you at Berkeley in 2016? Oh, the rain…’
***Here come LJ Idol again, this is my entry for week one. Other takes on the topic can be found here, and I'll post something when voting opens up. For the curious I finished the 13.1 miles in 2:20:20 - a time I am super happy with for this race.***