Outside magazine, June 1995
Dawn must be breaking, since the only time a sane person runs in 95-degree heat and 70 percent humidity is when the only option is to run later in the day, when the temperature will be up above 100. Location, of course, is another crucial issue, since the coolest spots are by water or in shady woods, which not coincidentally are also places where all the blood in your body will be siphoned out by mosquitoes and deerflies, no matter how much bug spray is dripping into your eyes. I run in New York City's Central Park, which has some water and some woods but, thankfully, no biting bugs to speak of--an advantage rarely listed in tourist guides, since bugs are the least of your worries here.
A hot, New York summer dawn is a quiet time, when the only sound is the hum of cicadas and the only people out are either extremely dedicated runners or pet owners who've ventured out to quickly walk their dogs--even the criminals are gratefully indoors. The solitude is pleasant when I'm just starting out, still convinced that it's not so hot after all, what with the pale yellow sun and the still pinkish sky. But once sweat has mixed with sunscreen to create an oily, nonevaporating glue, running in this heat and humidity is the fastest route to self-pity. Visible waves of heat rise up from the asphalt, and I find myself mentally chanting my hot-weather mantra: Oh God, it's hot. Am I OK? I should walk. This is insane. A person could die. Two hundred yards is really plenty. This is good. There's a cab.
This is my most vulnerable moment, but if I'm lucky, I'll see a dog walker before I decide to pack it in. Ah! A witness to my dedication and righteousness! I'm not getting into a cab--I'm an athlete! There's great moral superiority in keeping fit in this heat, and it's only by psyching myself up for a display of machisma that I am able to stop whining. As I approach the oncoming dog walker, I feel the muscles in my well-oiled legs extending in a slight burst of speed. Watch me effortlessly run past you, while you and your pathetic dog gasp and pant.
This little charade keeps me going for a few miles, by which time I actually begin to enjoy the slickness and the grit. It's the psychological difference between putting one leg ankle-deep in mud and then suddenly falling in--the worst has happened, so you might as well revel in it, now that you don't have to worry about how you're going to clean that foot off. This is the reason for running in 95-degree heat: No matter what you have to do for the rest of the day, even if it includes a visit to an iron-smelting plant, you'll never feel quite as hot as you do right now. Everyone else will be complaining, but you'll feel fresh as a daisy, thinking, You know, it's really very pretty out.
Lynn Snowden entered--and finished--her first marathon last fall. She wrote about the national rodeo championships in the April issue.
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