Ron Marinucci: April, 2013 Column

Ron Marinucci: April, 2013 Column

Karen and I returned from visiting Matt in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. Although the first day out there was rainy, a downpour all day (Yes, many streets, even part of The Strip, were flooded--in Las Vegas!), the rest of the trip saw glorious weather. I ran in shorts and tee shirts every morning. And sunny skies and mid-70 degrees allowed us to stroll through a four-hour outdoor charity event in shirt sleeves one afternoon.

Upon arriving at Metro and catching the shuttle to our car, one of the first things Karen noted was, “Hey, there’s still snow of the ground!” She didn’t say it with a lot of enthusiasm.

Since, I’ve heard a number of folks, including runners, ask, “When’s spring going to get here?” Winter seems to be lingering this year, unlike the past two. In fact, I read somewhere that Punxatawney Phil, the groundhog, was facing arrest on charges of fraud.

Perhaps with a couple of 50-degree days, spring has finally sprung. Still, forecasts for the first week of April call for highs in the upper 30s. What is it commonly said about Michigan? “Don’t like the weather? Stick around a little while. It’ll change.”

Yes, many runners look forward to the warmer temperatures that come with spring. They can discard their layers of running clothes and pull out their shorts and tee shirts. Although winter might be my favorite running season, I look forward to spring and all it brings, too. But I also say, “Hold on a minute! Not so fast.” I really don’t want to rush things.

Runners complain about the weather like everyone else. “It’s too cold” or “It’s too hot” or “It’s too windy.” “It’s raining” or “It’s snowing.” But I don’t think we are as serious with our grousing as most people.

I, for one, relish the four distinct running seasons Michigan affords us. Winter’s chill and ice evolve into the mud and wind of spring, to be followed by the heat, sweat, and bugs of summer. Of course, we also say good-bye to the beautiful white landscapes of snow and say hello to the budding flowers. We then welcome the lush greens and colorful leaves before the cycle begins anew. Each season brings its own personality, complete with quirks. But my eagerness to see one begin is somewhat tempered by the passing of another.

Picture your favorite running routes. Don’t they look different from season to season? From the winter hilltops of one of my favorite routes, I can see landmarks that are five and more miles distant. When summer rolls around, that vista is gone, blocked by the canopy of shade trees that cool and refresh the winding country roads. A spring run on another of my favorites takes me past the sprouting green leaves and blossoming buds. An hour on this same trail in the fall refreshes me with the brilliant colors of Mother Nature’s palette.

Each season of running in Michigan brings its own running scenarios—and anomalies. Isn’t it great to pull out the shorts and tee shirts on those rare January thaw days? Then, we prepare to bundle up the next weekend for near-zero temperatures. Only a few days get red-letter treatment in my training log. Shorts and tee shirts in January and February count. So do the first days I see the thinnest veneer of ice on the lakes and the buds on the trees and when the bugs grow unbearable on the trails.

Other runners chimed in on seasonal running in Michigan, too. Bill Benton listed in order his favorites: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. But he echoed many of my thoughts. “There is something to be said about running in any season. Late April and early May are nice because of the mild temperatures and the fact that you are shaking off the drab of late winter, which most of us are tired of by then. Summer is great because of the long daylight hours and the heat doesn’t bother me very much. Autumn offers the cool air and those wonderful colors. Winter offers clear starry skies and freshly fallen snow in which to run.” And, he quipped about winter, “You also get the bonus of stares of disbelief that someone is actually out running in that stuff.”

A long-time runner, Benton remembers experiencing all four seasons—on one solitary long run! “There was a day in March in the ‘70s when I experienced sunny warmth, then rain, sleet, and snow after which a strong wind dried me off by the time I returned home!”

Karen Lewis picked “autumn. I am not a good heat runner,” she said. “I tend to feel miserable on my runs throughout the summer [especially] when the temperatures are in the 70s or above.” Wistfully, the Ann Arbor-area runner added, “I look forward to the first crisp fall day when the temperature is in the low 40s to low 60s. My runs seem so effortless and much easier. The cooler temperatures give me more energy and a renewed passion for running.”

A life-long Michigan resident, Bob Drapal offered, “I enjoy all the season and do not have a favorite.” But, he added, “I usually look forward to the oncoming season with relief,” wryly grinning, “especially this year. This year’s winter has been much too long.”

“All the seasons have their plusses and minuses. Summers offer heat and humidity and attacking flies.” He also noted “the occasional Baltimore Oriole dive bombing my hat,” probably a Detroit Tiger hat. “However, I love to run in shorts and a misty rain surprisingly is one of my favorite conditions. Fall runs with the color changes and crisp mornings are always a plus, but occasional blustery winds are probably my least favorite element.”

He went on. “Winters I enjoy the snow, especially when it’s not on the pavement. I have no problem with the cold once I have broken a sweat. Spring is always fun because we break into shorts and the new smells make for many enjoyable runs. But being caught in unpredictable downpours can be a downer.”

Harry Plouff had another take on seasonal running, perhaps with his tongue in his cheek. “Now that I am retired,” he said, “winter has become my favorite [running] season. Running a January marathon every year gives my wife and me a chance to travel to some pretty neat places.” His winter “places” have included marathons in Phoenix, Florida, California, Alabama, New Orleans, and Texas. Those aren’t exactly Michigan winter sites. And this year, the mid-Michigan runner and his wife traveled to Australia for the Hobart Marathon. A friend of mine lived in Australia for a few years. She informed me that our winters are Australia’s summers. Hmmm.... Plouff added, “What a great way to travel and be with people who have the same interest. It’s a big party.”

Sure, I find myself grumbling about summer’s heat or how cold my hands and feet are in the winter. But the griping ends when I go to run and the beauty of nature, whatever the season, comes pouring in.