Running in the rain

Runner with umbrella

Can you see the runner with an umbrella?

It’s supposed to be rainy season (tsuyu, which literally says “plum rain”) in Japan, but I don’t think it rains as much in Tokyo during this season compared to other months of the year. In fact, I find that it may rain more on other times of the year (April, May, September and October, for instance) not just in Tokyo but in other places in Japan as well. For instance, it rained everyday during a week-long October visit to Kyoto, including the day I hiked through a forest on my way to Enryakuji Temple when it rained heavily (to make matters worse, one of my cheap running shoes split apart) but I was able to capture stunning photographs in the rain.

It rained the day before and the morning of my first 27-K run in November in Kawaguchiko. The very same thing happened at my first marathon in Tokyo in February 2007. I’ve had several training runs in the freezing winter rain leading up to that and the two succeeding Tokyo Marathons (a phone drowned in the downpour during one run). That’s why I now avoid marathons scheduled for late winter or early spring. Not running on rainy winter days (not to mention snowy days) while training for a marathon is not an option – if you stay in bed, you will pay for it during the race. That said, I’m signing up for the Yokohama City Marathon and if I get in, then I’ll be back with winter training again.

I do love the rain. I love rainy days when I’m indoors, with a glass of wine at hand, looking out the window and listening to the rain fall through the leaves of the trees in front of our apartment. It makes for a great lazy day for doing absolutely nothing or quiet time for reading.

I enjoy running in the rain, particularly in summer. The rain changes my surroundings dramatically and dampens most noise, which make running so much more interesting and introspective. The rain makes me feel clean, too, and the drop in temperature is such a relief from the heat. Take my experiences this weekend. On Saturday, the on-and-off rain made my venture outdoors cool, refreshing and fun. On Sunday, it was so hot that I had to take a lot of walking and water breaks (I’m not even sure I can consider Sunday’s run a run). I was praying not just for cloud cover and a breeze but for a cool shower. The cloud cover and the rain finally came – after I was done. Despite muddy running paths, wet shoes and squishy socks, give me rain than the hot summer sun any time. If anyone knows of an effective rain dance, you will not find a more willing student than me.

Another thing I like about the rain is that it keeps most people, especially dog walkers, inside their cozy homes, which clears my running path. On a weekday, there’s only a handful (or less) of us out there. There may be more runners on rainy weekends but overall there are not that many rain runners. I usually see the same faces braving the rain. I sense a sort of camaraderie of the few.

But the rain also seems to bring out some odd people, such as runners with umbrellas. I assure you that they are unusual in my neighborhood (thankfully) but they exist nonetheless. I understand runners wearing wind breakers or caps. I have no problem with runners holding umbrellas or wrapping their shoes in plastic while waiting for a race to start. But I’ve never seen runners run marathons with umbrellas (and I hope never to see one). The umbrellas and plastic shoe wrappers are discarded as soon as the gun goes off. But along my river, I’ve seen runners holding umbrellas while running. Last Saturday, it was raining on and off the whole day. In the morning, when I went out, I bumped into one runner and one brisk walker, both dressed in running attires, holding folding umbrellas which they quickly opened when the rain came down. A few weeks ago, I saw a female runner struggling with her umbrella because the wind was causing the rain to go sideways. She was wet, so why bother?

Worse than runners are some dog owners. I’ve come across a dog owner who strapped two umbrellas, one above the head and one above the bum, of his Golden Retriever. Yes, that beautiful Golden Retriever was being walked in the rain under umbrellas. Not only did the dog look incredibly ridiculous, but I’m sure that the dog did not enjoy his walk in the rain at all. Another time, I ran across a dog owner who wrapped his medium-sized dog in plastic, placed a ridiculous cap on the dog’s head, and made the dog wear boots. Poor dogs. What crimes could those canine pals have committed for their masters to be this cruel to them?

Runners, enjoy the rain. Dog owners, let your dogs enjoy the rain with dignity.

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