Two weeks ago I finally returned to the beach to coach my running groups after 18 months online. It feels great to be back sharing the miles, the news and the squats. As we set off on our path I eavesdropped as the group combined their two favourite activities: running and chatting. While the conversations drifted from pandemic to schools, summer holidays to races, almost everyone remarked on what a beautiful evening it was to be outdoors.
Although we started in daylight and finished in the dark, there was something special about the air on that autumnal evening, and indeed every evening I have been out since that first class back running together.
Change of season
These early autumn days are perfect for anyone looking to reignite their love for running. September is warm enough to still wear one layer of clothing when running, but not so hot that it’s uncomfortably sweaty. If it rains, it’s warm rain and, on those mornings when you feel the chill, it is refreshing rather than freezing. We still have some daylight in the morning and early evenings allowing us to use the parks, paths and trails that offer our running legs such variety. We can witness the glorious changing colours of the leaves and this week a beautiful harvest moon to light our evening path. You won’t get a better combination of conditions than that.
Time to reset
If despite your best intentions earlier this month to get back into a good running routine, the first two weeks of the month have disappeared on you, all is not lost. While the start of September can be seen as a good time to revisit the new year resolutions and give us a kickstart, often those weeks are extra busy as all the other elements of our life, from family to work, are also struggling to establish new routines. Our work schedules are busy again after the August lull, the return to school, homework and sensible bedtimes take over many a household and a post-pandemic way of working has many people chasing their tail, not to mention sitting in traffic again. Realistically it is the second half of September before many of us have time to look up and think about ourselves and our wellbeing in earnest.
Let’s make this week the one where we reclaim time for ourselves. This Wednesday marks the autumn equinox, the exact midpoint between the longest and shortest days of the year and when there is equal day and night. It is a time for balance. If you are looking for a reason to kickstart your running routine again, look no further. Celebrate with a run.
Along your path think about where you would like to be with your running by the time we reach the winter solstice in mid-December. Make a plan, get started and aim to find balance in your life for your running amid the madness of everything else that is going on.
If that sounds a little too spiritual for you, keep it simple and remember that from today forward there is less daylight each day until December 21st, so we should embrace the outdoors and daylight when we can to help us feel on top form.
September running can be misleading when it comes to safety, particularly where daylight is concerned. When we leave home in wonderful evening sunshine it can be easy to forget how quickly the nights draw in and how important it is to be wearing high-visibility clothing, even when it is still T-shirt weather.
Visibility should be our top safety concern from here forward on every run. From hi-vis vests to lights and gadgets that keep us illuminated, there are endless options on the market that are comfortable as well as practical for runners. You might consider the excellent initiative from the Road Safety Authority that offers free hi-vis vests to runners (and walkers) on their website.
Find the right path
Rather than feel disappointed that we are losing daylight, decide instead that you are going to make the most of the routes that won’t be as accessible in the winter months. Try to run on grass, sand, trail and other soft surfaces where you can in these coming weeks, while they are still reasonably firm underfoot.
While we can be in awe of the beautiful colours of the leaves and how much they change each week this month, be sure to watch out for the slippy spots of wet leaves underfoot on paths. These are another autumn hazard, but one we have got to put up with if we want to enjoy the beauty of the change of seasons.
Over the coming weeks there will be more talk about running in our social circles and social media as we see the return to races. We will get to watch the London Marathon on television and there will be more opportunities to run in a group again as Parkrun and other races return to the calendar. The buzz is finally returning to the running community and you have a chance to get yourself back into the rhythm and routine so you are ready to enjoy it all.
You don’t need to have your eye on the clock just yet. Instead, focus on getting outside, putting one foot in front of the other, noticing what’s around you and remembering how lucky you are that you can run. Once you reignite your love for running the rest will look after itself.
Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!).
First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
- Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
- 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!
Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Her next running technique workshop takes place this Sunday, September 26th, in Dublin