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Of Course 4 Miles Feels Different in the Sun

The other weekend, I went running at 1:00 PM. Even though I wasn’t anticipating a long run, I brought my running water bottle “just in case.” I drank and refilled and drank and refilled and drank—

I came back, 4 miles sweatier, and spent the rest of the evening desperately rehydrating.

Talking through this in my head later that night, I started to wonder why the 7 miler a week prior had been so much fun. So easy. Oh, but of course 4 miles feels different in the sun.

At the marathon start line in Palm Beach, Florida last December, my uncle ran into someone he knew, the pacer for the 4 hour runners. You’re my goal! I enthusiastically told him. We talked briefly about my training and my first marathon time. He wished me luck and gave me a warning: The sun will come up. The last half is going to be much tougher than the first. Keep hydrating and keep that in mind. You don’t want to mess with this heat.

I heard him. And I considered the wisdom of this Florida-based runner. I like to think I even flirted with the idea of listening. But he was talking to a runner who had been logging dozens of miles in the 30 – 40 degree weather that is a New York City winter morning. This sun was going to feel delicious.

And the siren sounds. And the race begins. And I had full trust in myself and in my training. This was absolutely within reach. I felt all the hard work culminating in the first casual half.

And then the sun rose. And it was absolutely a thirst I have never experienced in a decade and a half of distance running.

Of course a half marathon feels different in the sun.

It’s one thing to know all this. It’s another to put it into practice. To be okay with the way differing circumstances impact our final results.

At the finish line, I joked with my loved ones about how the next marathon was going to be in Alaska or Antarctica, whichever fit my schedule better.

But hadn’t I craved the sunshine after miles in the cold? Hadn’t the sharpness of icy air in my throat started to hurt in those final weeks of training? Doesn’t extreme temperature in the other direction bring its own challenges?

Perhaps all we can do is observe the changes. The way 4 miles feels at 30 degrees and 60 and 90. And we can try to equip ourselves with the tools we need to be successful at each level. But at the end of the day, perhaps the best thing we can do is make the best of the weather we are given.


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