My cell phone almost rung itself off the hook - if there was a hook for things like cell phones to be rung off - during Saturday.
"Mike, this is ... is the Bull Run still going to happen? You know it's raining outside, right?"
I cheerfully joked with the callers, telling each one, "the only thing which will stop the event are life-threatening conditions; lightning, flash flood, earthquakes...stuff along those lines."
The first one or two calls are all right. After the fifth or sixth caller it takes a great deal of restraint to hold back the sigh and initialize the "grandfather" program. Frustration, or emotions which sound much like it, doesn't transmit a positive feeling to a potential participant.
Since this was a free event I was not concerned about lost income. Actually, I had an idea people would come out, regardless of the weather conditions. Some people bring their own sunshine, others make it. Runner safety was not my overwhelming concern; we passed along the "if you're silly enough to do this event you deserve what you get" message throughout the local media.
I worried more about the skaters. As you can guess the safe threshhold for stops, starts and maneuvers drops once rink wheels and tiny brakes enter the picture. I was watching cyclists topple like ten-pins on rain-slick Pyreneean roads during the Tour de France; enough to make you cringe in pain. Every five-minute stretch of hard rain only made me more nervous. Every ease-up in the drizzle relaxed me.
I decided to leave the safety call to the skate coordinator; I was more likely to err on the side of (wimpy) cautiousness. Fifteen minutes before I arrived at the course, the phone rang again.
It was the skate coordinator, fortunately for me and my nerves. "We're still on, right?" she asked.
"Oh, yeah. I was going to ask how you felt about skating in this junk. Think your girls will handle it?"
Once I knew she was good with the potential conditions I knew there would be no problems. We kept an eye on the radar, the front windows and the pavement...and quickly drew up an alternative plan in the event more stuff hit the fan. Fortunately for the 200-some runners and 30-40 skaters the weather eased up and the pavement dried a little; a couple of skaters went down, but that's why they wear all that body armor.
When it comes to weather conditions there's a point at which we all have to decide whether our personal safety, our health, or our workout takes the first priority. I have many hard-core runner friends who are going to run, regardless of what's falling out of the sky. I've done long runs in a torrential downpour; track workouts in lightning, tempo runs in near-pitch darkness. Those are usually the workouts where I wonder whether the benefits outweighed the risks, then say quietly to myself 'that might have been a stupid decision.'
I'm not saying we need to toss our planned workout into the dustbin if it isn't clear skies and light breezes, nice temps and low humidities. A run, even if it's truncated, in nasty conditions can make runners more resilient. We never can tell what hand Mother Nature is going to deal us on race day, and when it comes to some events bailing out can make for a rather expensive "did not start" or "did not finish," so there are times that rainy, cold, seemingly-miserable long run may need to happen...and may teach us a little more about ourself.