Anyone who has run a marathon – or participated in any endurance sport, come to that – knows that, seasonal averages be damned, trying to predict the weather for race days is something of a crap shoot. (The exception being California.) Of the nine marathons I have run thus far in my life, all of them timed for typically cool spring and autumn, six have taken place in unusually cold or warm temperatures. The most extreme of these was the most recent, Boston 2012 when, with unrelenting sunshine and temperatures in the mid-high 80s, the race organizers asked people to defer, hundreds dropped out, 1200 sought medical attention and just finishing in one piece seemed like a major personal accomplishment worthy of a PR. (Boston 2013 had its own extreme circumstances, but this is not a piece about terrorism nor our response to it.)
And so the pattern continues. I will be running the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington this Sunday – a place and a race I enjoyed so very much four years ago (when I got lucky with the weather and qualified for Boston for the first time) that I brought the family back for a camping trip the following summer. That trip, too, was so much fun (despite some summer rain) that we planned long ago for the whole family to take a trip for this marathon this holiday weekend, booking three nights at the North Beach campground, conveniently close to start line, finish line and city center. The trip was given a bonus attraction when in the last couple of months, our older son was accepted into and made the decision to attend Champlain College in the heart of Burlington, starting this autumn. I have yet to see inside the place and have been looking forward to doing so. And as recently as this Wednesday, the forecast for race day looked absolutely perfect – high 40s to low 60s, partly cloudy. All the camping gear was brought out of the basement a week ago. We were, as Americans like to say, psyched.
Oh well. As I type this on Friday morning, the forecast for the next 48 hours calls for rain, rain, rain and rain. Pre-race Saturday night will see temperatures close to freezing at lower ground, with the prospect of six to eight inches of heavy snow in Burlington’s neighboring ski mountains – hardly your ideal camping scenario when you plan on running your heart out shortly after dawn. Nor is the warning of gale force winds and rain through much of Sunday morning. As the National Weather Service puts it, EXPECT A COLD/BLUSTERY AND WET DAY ON SUNDAY FOR MARATHON ACTIVITIES IN BURLINGTON.
So, the camping trip is off. The family will stay home. My race, however, goes ahead rain or shine. (Well, rain.) You don’t train for four months solid for something like this, getting up early on weekend mornings all through winter to run long distances, competing in half-marathons an hour or two from home to get the race practice in, running 27 miles of your local streets to get the distance in, only to bail at the prospect of the odd 30mph gale wind blowing the rain in your face as you try and run a re-qualifying time for Boston 2014. Hell no, you just suck it up and shout… “Insanity is fun!”
And hey, every cloud has a silver lining. (And certainly, I’ll be seeing my share of clouds this weekend.) Given we’re not staying over at the campground Sunday night, that means I should be get to either Albany or New York City to watch the Crystal Palace-Watford Play-off final on Monday morning East Coast time. I may not be able to stand, I may not even be able to walk, but as long as I don’t catch a cold on the streets of Burlington Sunday morning running in the rain, I will certainly be able to shout. Eagles!