Snow, heat, ice, humidity, rain, or wind—none of them is fun, but what’s the most challenging element a runner must face? Any runner you ask will have an opinion but, as you might expect, few will agree.
Chances are many runner’s minds immediately picture winter conditions, including the extreme cold, ice, and snow, when posed the question of what the worst elements are to run in.
“Cold, snow, and ice! I don’t feel safe between slipping, sliding and crazy drivers!” Said Laura, a former college runner, and current recreational runner.
Snow and ice definitely force a runner to slow down and likely change her stride to compensate for the instability that slick ground offers. Plus, frozen toes make for awkward running; there’s just no way around that. Knowing this, of course, winter running deserves a nod for its additional challenges.
Summer and its excessive heat and humidity are known to slow a few runners down. Any runner who has dealt with the unpleasant—and sometimes scary!—side effects of dehydration and overheating will attest that heat can and will defeat an unprepared runner.
Rain should also not be overlooked, as it negatively affects runners in ways ranging from inhibiting our vision (when seeping into our eyes, carrying the sweat from our heads, painfully nearly blinding us at times), to soaking our clothes and chilling us to the bone, to over-saturating our skin and leading to blisters that make grown men cry.
I would never be so bold as to state that cold, heat, and rain are not powerful elements that deserve great respect and proper preparation from runners. However, I don’t believe they are the worst element most runners will face in their lives.
A strong argument can be made for an even harder element to run with—or against—as it not only makes all other elements all the harsher when combined together. But, wind can break us down, mentally and physically, all on its own.
After 16 years of running—experiencing at least to some degree all aforementioned elements while running—I’d give the honor of worse running condition to the wind.
The wind is nature’s equivalent to a best friend who lets you down at a critical time, only adding insult to injury. Wind will tease you pushing and pulling you in a helpful and encouraging way—only to slap you in the face as soon as you turn around. After interviewing fellow runners with some years and experience under their hydration belts, it appears I’m not alone in this conclusion.
“Wind is the worst. It tortures you in one direction, but lets you fly in the other,” summarized Nate, a runner of 13 years.
Lauren, a runner of five years, agreed, “The element I downright despise would be running in the wind. I find I perform about the same but exert so much more energy when there is wind. It’s like I’m working 20 times harder to produce the same result…not fun!”
To be fair, any element in its extreme presents challenges that make running harder, less comfortable, sometimes unsafe, and other times just plain crazy. Personally, I think Mother Nature just likes to mess with us.
What about you? Let’s hear from the runners out there! What do you think is the most wicked element to run in, and why?