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Cybercolumn by Berry D. Simpson: Cold and safe_11005

Posted: 12/30/04

CYBERCOLUMN: Cold and safe

By Berry D. Simpson

One recent Saturday morning, I ran in the cold rain, and it was wonderful.

It wasn't all that cold, actually, in terms of general North American winter weather—maybe in the low 40s. And it wasn't raining all that hard—simply a steady but gentle rain and certainly no downpour.

The biggest problem about running in the rain in Midland is not the water falling from the sky but the water flowing down the streets. The city uses the major streets as drainage channels. We have little else to choose from in this flat land, and sometimes the stream of water running down the middle of the street is wider than I can jump with my untrained legs. I end up splashing one foot in the water and soaking my trailing foot that usually passes directly into the airborne splash.

Berry D. Simpson

So, the coldest parts of my body that morning were my wet feet, but even they were comfortable, since running generates heat in my feet. I was warm enough.

One of the reasons I like to run in the rain, especially cold rain like this, is because I have a great waterproof rain jacket especially designed for running that my wife, Cyndi, bought a few years ago. I wanted one for a long time, but I couldn't justify the expense in my own mind, knowing I'd use it only occasionally. But Cyndi solved my dilemma by giving the jacket to me for Christmas. I don't get to wear it often enough, if you ask me.

When I'm bundled up with my hood pulled over my head, I am isolated from the world; I am insulated from the prying eyes of all the nosy automobile drivers and pesky onlookers who have nothing better to do than watch me as I run by and try to decide if I am someone they know. I wear my outfit like a cocoon.

I ran again in the cold rain the following Monday evening. It was 42 degrees and raining. As it turned out, running in the rain was actually the warmest part of my day. I was cold everywhere I went Monday—in my office, when I was studying, at my noon meeting downtown, while I was working, and even as I drove around town. It was one of those days when I started out with a chill, and I never caught up. But running outside, wearing my stuff, well, I was protected from the elements, and I was generating heat, and I was comfy.

I'll admit I wear more clothes when running than I used to, either because I'm becoming more cold-natured as I get older, or because I learned that no one was impressed when I suffered through a cold run wearing only a T-shirt and shorts. If I overdress, I know I'll be miserable during the second half of the run, but if I underdress, I'll be miserable the entire time.

I realize for all my love of running in the cold, 40 degrees isn't so bad. The rest of the country would love to have 40s in winter. In Wisconsin, they probably lay out for a tan in the 40s, so happy to be that warm. Even so, most of my Midland friends thought it was too bad for running on either Saturday or Monday. Except, that is, my backpacking friend Blake, who says, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear."

Running in the summertime heat is all about exposure and openness and minimal apparel. I have no protection from the outside world because I am wearing as little clothing as possible. It is just me alone, open to the world. But on that Saturday morning run, with my hood pulled up and my earphones playing “Morning Edition” and my sleeves pulled down past my gloved fingers and the bill of my hat hiding my eyes, well, I was anonymous. I was safe. I was hidden and protected. It was great.

The thing is, I wouldn't want to live my whole life like that. I may feel safe when hidden from view, but safety isn't all there is to living. The joy in my life comes from teaching and writing and communicating and, well, exposing myself, so to speak.

I want to share what God has done in my life so other people can join me on the journey and allow him to do the same for them. I can't do any of that living in a cocoon.

Berry Simpson, a Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church in Midland, is a petroleum engineer, writer, runner and member of the city council in Midland.

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