Running where I live gets hot too...

... but not THIS hot

When I first got into running, I was about 24 or 25 years old. There was a park near my Atlanta neighborhood where I’d go for runs most afternoons, with a loop trail that was almost two miles around.

At the time, I rarely ran the trail more than a single time. That seemed like plenty. (Why keep going? I just crossed the finish line when I got back to my car, right?) Slowly but surely, though, I started adding little bits of distance to each run, another half-mile here, another half-mile there.

It wasn’t very long before I was starting to get in distances of three and four miles — and this was when I still didn’t even think of myself as a “runner,” just someone who liked to go for a run occasionally at the park. (I was single and new to life in a big city back then, and honestly I didn’t have a lot to occupy my time.)

For anyone who lives in Atlanta, if you run then inevitably you start eyeing the Peachtree Road Race as the one race you want to run. As an event, it’s huge — some 50,000 people run it each year — and it’s a blast. The organizers put a ton of energy into making it fun, with a route that takes you through the heart of Buckhead and into Piedmont Park, so people are lining the streets to cheer you on just about the entire way.

Sounds like a great race, right? There’s just one catch — it’s on the 4th of July, which kicks off Atlanta’s hottest month of the year. When temperatures reach an average of 90 degrees every day, when the air is so heavy with humidity you can almost see it, and when more than a few runners have been known to simply give up before trying to finish those last couple miles of the race.

But as hot as I’ve felt it running the Peachtree over the years, I’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing now — in the Pacific Northwest (!) of all places. And according to The Weather Channel (where I used to work, coincidentally), this July will likely bring more of the same:

This past week, I downloaded for my Kindle a new book by Scott Douglas, The Genius of Athletes, which digs deep into how elite athletes — from runners like Meb Keflezighi to swimmers like Michael Phelps — approach the mental side of their sport.

As you might imagine, everything he has to share about the athletes he profiles in the book — especially the resilience people like Keflezighi have to come back from disappointing performances and train for months to get back to where they once were — is nothing short of amazing.

But even these athletes know when it’s time to trim their sails. As Douglas writes about Brianna Stubbs, a world-class rower who retired from the sport a few years ago and became an accomplished triathlete (and even competed in the Half Ironman world championship), you simply can’t be at your best all the time:

“One thing that has really helped me — and I know it sounds like a silly trope — is if you’re having a 3-out-of-10 day, make it a 3-out-of-3 day,” [Stubbs told Douglas in an interview.]

“It’s like being at peace with the fact that you can’t be at 100 percent all of the time, and doing what you can with the energy level you have and with what the conditions are.”

I know that feeling of always wanting to go a little further, to test yourself a little more. I think that’s what many of us love about running, that it can take us out to the edge of what we’re capable of, so we can test our own limits and find out for ourselves how far we can go.

Sometimes, though, conditions tell us something — e.g., when places like Portland, Ore., reach 117 degrees! — that perhaps it’s time to back off a little. Maybe let’s make today a 3-of-3 day, as Brianna Stubbs might describe it.

“Discretion is the better part of valor,” Falstaff says in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, after Prince Hal finds him pretending to be dead on the battlefield. I know we’re meant to laugh at his cowardice, but… he kinda has a point doesn’t he? 😃

What do you think? How are you handling this heat? I know some of you absolutely love to run in it; others not so much. Are you out in it when it’s this hot outside?

Love to hear your thoughts — as always, keep in touch and let me know how your running (and life!) is going.

Your friend,

— Terrell

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Races you might love running

Iron Horse Half Marathon

Midway, Ky. | Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021

Nestled in the heart of Kentucky’s bluegrass country — at the midpoint of the railroad line between the cities of Lexington and Frankfort — this early fall race features a route that shows off the state’s rolling green hills and thoroughbred horse farms. Expect gorgeous, expansive views of the countryside (and the white fencing this part of the country is known for) and even though it’s hilly, the hills aren’t too challenging.

$80 and up | Sign up here

Fall Equinox Half Marathon

Fort Collins, Colo. | Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021

Known both for its whitewater rapids and for the plentiful trout that make it a mecca for fishermen around the region, Colorado’s Cache la Poudre River and Poudre River Canyon serve as the setting for this race, which takes place at the time of the autumnal equinox. Starting at 5,900 feet above sea level, it’s all downhill from there as runners make their way through the Roosevelt National Forest, as well as through Colorado’s only National Wild and Scenic River.

$99 and up | Sign up here

Glenwood Canyon Shuffle

Glenwood Springs, Colo. | Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021

A beautifully scenic run along the bike paths that wind through Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon. Carved over millions of years by the Colorado River, the canyon stretches about 16 miles through the Rocky Mountains, and runners can expect to see sheer cliffs on both sides of the course as well as smaller canyons and creeks. From the starting line, the course winds through the rocky-faced canyon walls, which in some spots stand as high as 1,000 feet above the trail. Though it’s often windy on race day, that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the route, which has been called one of the most scenic stretches of the Interstate Highway system anywhere in the country.

$40 and up | Sign up here

Under the Oaks Half Marathon

Jekyll Island, Ga. | Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021

One of the most beautiful and historic of Georgia’s “Golden Isles,” the string of barrier islands along the state’s roughly 100-mile long coastline, Jekyll Island also is one of its best-loved state parks, as more than 1,000 acres of its maritime forest are protected from the development that has gobbled up much of the Atlantic coast. The course for this half is about as flat and fast as you can find, run just a few feet above sea level with plentiful views of the marshes, forests and beaches that Jekyll is famous for, out in the sunshine on the paved roads that circle the island.

$60 and up | Sign up here

Key Largo Bridge Run

Key Largo, Fla. | Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021

Run through Florida’s “Gateway to the Keys” along a stunningly beautiful stretch of the 18-mile-long Jewfish Creek Bridge. The race starts and finishes along U.S. 1 that connects the Keys to the mainland, and from there runners will follow a long out-and-back that looks out onto Blackwater Sound, with the edges of Everglades National Park off in the distance.

$100 and up | Sign up here

Cloudland Canyon Half Marathon

Rising Fawn, Ga. | Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021

A stunning run deep into one of the most beautiful places in Georgia, the 3,500-acre Cloudland Canyon State Park — home “to thousand-foot deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife.” You’ll run down inside its canyons for many of your miles, passing by waterfalls as you run over hills and alongside streams throughout. As the organizers say, “we can not reiterate how beautiful this course is!” (There’ll also be a 50K and 50-miler in addition to the half.)

$75 and up | Sign up here

Words to run by

“Time is no more fixed than the stars. Time speeds and bends around planets and suns, is different in the mountains than in the valleys, and is part of the same fabric as space, which curves and swells as does the sea.”

— Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing