Rambling Roads: Autumn Heat?

By George A. Hancock

Time’s steady movement flows on. Autumn’s vibrant and majestic season is nearly at its end. Soon, the Christmas season will envelop our days. And then, in the days after that gala event, we prepare for a new year.

Locally, my autumn season feels and appears like a summer-season encore. September in Greater Johnstown was incredible. We finished the month with 20 days at normal or above average temperatures. Twelve days were well above average. This runner toured the local roads in a short-sleeve shirt and shorts. My morning runs were nice.

We did have 10 September days with below-average temperatures. Several of those mornings required a crew sweatshirt and gloves. Yet, I was still running in shorts.

As of this writing, the warm autumn trend continues. My predawn runs remain nice. Even running in the fall rain is okay. The rainfall, although sometimes heavy, is warm for this seasonal time period.

Recently, I read a Runner’s World online article, “The Future of Running and Racing in a Rapidly Heating World,” posted on August 23, 2021 by writer Sarah Barker. This article was fascinating and very topical.

I mulled the article’s thought train during several morning runs. Of course, one must note that the debate concerning changing weather patterns has turned partisan with numerous factions, including spammers, spewing climate change, anti-science, anti-technology, and personal-freedom rhetoric. Reading through these debates is excruciating due to the misleading and false information presented by many.

Yet, the weather is changing for many folks in numerous locations across our country. Sarah Barker points out in her article that there were already 23 days with temps in the 90s in her region when the average is 13 in a year’s time.

Runners across the United States are encountering numerous weather hurdles this year. Wildfires rage along the West Coast. Fire and dense smoke create health issues. Tropical storms soak the Gulf Coast with wind and drenching rains. Then, these tropical system move inland creating localized flooding issues. Ida produced death and destruction across a huge swath of the U.S. Flooding deaths occurred in locations once deemed safe. Tornadoes still present destructive issues with their continuing storms. And now, snowstorms have appeared in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

Yes, runners are facing numerous challenges. These weather-related issues pose numerous concerns. In reality, everyone is facing weather-related issues. However, since this is a running online news source, we focus on that athletic group. 

A recent news report indicated that 25% of the United States is at risk for flooding. Four states—Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky, and West Virginia are now the most flood prone. Outdoor enthusiasts residing in these regions must remain weather aware.

Sarah Barker poses the question ‘Can runners adapt to this climate change?’ Barker’s article raises serious concerns. Runners and other folks face troublesome hurdles. In addition to localized flooding, heat, air

Now, consider the scenario if you were out walking or running during these weather events. Could you survive these deadly flood waters? Or, do you recognize the potential severe weather signs?

Remember those Olympic Trials held in Eugene this year? The heat in that Pacific Northwest region was incredible. So many events were postponed or delayed due to those excessive heat conditions. Clearly, changes need to be made to one’s running program depending on where you live.

Smart runners will adapt and run on. Changes can be made assuring safe passage across our warm landscape. So far, my running program remains on track. Running before 6am beats the excessive heat. I also maintain weather awareness. I pay attention to local weather alerts. Even a strong wind event requires mental clarity. I run by many trees. Old branches, even whole trees, are known to fall into my roadway.

This article should raise concern among all runners. Our future is always unpredictable. Yet, it’s so easy to stay weather-alert while running smart and well.

Howard Tunnel on the beautiful Heritage Rail Trail in York County, Pennsylvania, a favorite spot for running, cycling, and elliptigos. And it’s cooler on a warm day. (Photo by Patti Stirk)

Categories: Features

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