Editor’s Note: Trent Knoss is the first MIT science writing graduate student to accept the Boston Project Blog’s Hurricane Sandy challenge. A true reporter (and runner), he braved the stormy Massachusetts weather this morning for a run and wrote about it. To read more of Trent’s work, check out Scope or the PLOS MIT SciWrite blog. You can also follow him on Twitter @TrentKnoss.
With Hurricane Sandy lashing the coast and bringing Boston to a standstill today, most coastal dwellers are laying low and staying dry indoors. But diehard local runners will not be denied, and I gallantly (or foolishly, depending on your point of view) joined their ranks this morning. Amidst the cutting rain, I decided to chase down a few of my fellow masochists and get their thoughts.
As I got going, the first thing I noticed was the quiet. There were almost no cars on the road at what would normally be rush hour. The construction projects in Area IV (between Kendall Square and Central Square) that rattle me awake at 7 AM every weekday were vacated. Most shops along Main Street were dark — except for Starbucks, that beacon of consistency in an uncertain world. It all seemed vaguely pre-apocalyptic, if that’s a term.
Along the river, the wind howled viciously, catching the leaves in the trees like miniature sails. An older man, bundled up in a tan rain slicker and green galoshes, gave me a friendly wave on my way by. Another woman called impatiently to her panting black lab to finish up so they could get back inside. The sparsely populated Red Line rumbled across the bridge in what would end up being one of its final runs of the day (MBTA service was suspended at 2 PM).
I ran alongside a youngish guy in a college track jacket for a few minutes. He declined to be identified for the story, but cited his intense year-round race schedule as the reason why he doesn’t take days off.
“[Bad weather] doesn’t faze me…I hate treadmills more,” he said.
At least one was using his stormy run as preventative medicine for cabin fever. ”It’ll justify the rest of the day on the couch,” said Doug S. of Somerville.
Running around in now-soaked shorts and starting to feel the chill, I started thinking about the fact that even under non-hurricane conditions, it takes a certain mental attitude to get out the door in bad weather. Your brain has to overrule its instinct to go back up to your nice warm bed. You know that it’s going to be cold and uncomfortable, that your shoes will squeak with water and that your clothes will need to be wrung out in the bathtub afterward. Any one of those factors might be enough to stop most people, but these outliers do it anyway. They’re determined to exercise, Weather Channel forecasts be damned. The neuroscience of that instinct would make a fascinating study for an entrepreneurial research team.
All in all, I spent about 45 minutes outside and only a few runners were interested in chatting. They were engrossed in their runs, as is their wont. Of the dozen or so that went past, I can’t say that any looked particularly comfortable, but many just shrugged or laughed in a “what are you going to do?” sort of way.
Alison Gray, a Cambridge runner who has competed in all kinds of inclement weather (including last year’s scorching Boston Marathon), raced past me at the foot of the Massachusetts Avenue bridge. Reached later by email, she said that friends sent her cautionary notes about going out in the hurricane, but that she was “pumped to go out in the elements.”
Asked to describe how she felt after the run, she wrote, “Victorious. Also freezing.”