By Kristin Armstrong
I used to hate the rain.
Years ago it was my excuse to cancel my run and stay inside all day. It was an automatic out. I hated running in the rain, the way it made me blink when it hit my lashes and the way I felt chilled to the bone. I didn’t like the way my running clothes stuck to my skin and chafed, or how my ponytail tangled into a giant dreadlock. I really don’t like wind, so I hated how the trees would bend, sending loose leaves scattering across the desolate trail. I never liked navigating around puddles, or wearing heavy, soggy shoes that kept getting rocks in them. I didn’t like the way wet dirt splashed up onto my calves or having to leap over rushing water as it poured into Lady Bird Lake. I didn’t like the way my seat and floor mat turned into a wet, muddy mess as I drove home. Rain was just not for me.
My best friend and running partner, Paige, could not understand this about me. She absolutely loves the rain. As far as she’s concerned, the rain just eliminates the pansies and the riff raff, leaving plenty of room for the dedicated and the diehards. On a beautiful day everyone hits the trail, crowding out the regulars, much like trying to get a seat at church on Easter Sunday or Christmas. On a rainy day, we pretty much have the place to ourselves. Paige loves the way rain makes her feel rinsed clean and made new. She loves picking up the pace when thunder rumbles and lightning cracks across the sky. “Aw, c’mon, we’re fine,” she always says in response to my raised eyebrow whenever we are in ankle deep water with lightning bolts overhead. She plows through puddles on purpose, laughing like a kid on the playground. She regards the mud splatters on her legs as proof of her adventure. She knows I’m wary of geese, so she enjoys bumping me into a squawking gaggle of them and watching me high step at top speed to get away. She saves lives, tossing stranded, barely-flopping fish back into the lake after the trail floods. She hands out Whole Foods gift cards to our favorite homeless people as they sit in dry spots under the bridges and wait for the rain to pass. She insists that post-run coffee and breakfast tacos taste better when you are wet, cold and tired.
One rainy morning in late fall we had a long run scheduled as part of our marathon training. Our cars were the only two parked by the trail, which should have been our first clue. Paige determined that it probably wasn’t going to get much worse for at least an hour, so we got out and began to run. When we were halfway around the long loop, the storm really started to hit. I had never seen anything like it. It was so windy that Lady Bird Lake had white caps and trees contorted like yogis. Branches and leaves whipped and shredded into salad across the trail. Rushing water cut rivulets into the packed granite, feeding into currents that made boat ramp crossings truly perilous. Slanting rain spit mercilessly in our faces like needles as we pushed into a wind that pushed back with equal force. The wind tore off the hood of my rain jacket and water promptly filled it. We didn’t see a single soul besides each other. We later learned that we ran right through a legitimate tornado warning. We weren’t sure if we were idiots or badasses. (Probably a little bit of both.)
We finally got back to our cars, grateful they had not been carried away by the knee-deep water gushing down the hill. I wrapped a towel around me like I just finished a swim and hopped into the dry sanctuary of my car. As I drove home I realized that Paige’s joy had worn me down over the years and oddly enough, I now loved the rain too.
Sometimes it takes nature — and an adventurous friend — to get us outside our comfort zones.
Illustrations by Joy Gallagher
by Joanna Steblay
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