Summer Breeze | 05.24.19

After returning home from church this past Sunday, I made the decision to complete a long run at 1 p.m. How I managed to finish eleven miles at a 7:59 pace still baffles me in light of the conditions. In fact, the run reminds me of the text on the back of every Big Peach Running Co. branded shirt: “Heat, Hills, & Humidity. Welcome to Atlanta.” According to the Garmin Forerunner 35 data, I checked all three boxes. Heat? Yes. Hills? Multiple. Humidity? Close to 100%.

Summer begins June 21st this year, but the stifling May heat suggests otherwise. Or in the sobering words of renowned English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Summer has set in with its usual severity.” I love the long days, but as a distance runner, summer training is brutal. Just plain nasty. Indeed, there’s a strange, cruel irony surrounding summer images. Beaches. Palm trees. Oceans. Sunsets. Lest we forget that all of the aforementioned visuals are underscored by scorching heat. Ninety degrees or more—plus the humidity. A song from the 70s captures this disconnect.

The first time I listened to “Summer Breeze” (1972) by Seals & Crofts occurred in Ardmore, Tennessee. My best friend, whose family recently moved from Huntsville, Alabama, purchased some fifty acres of property for stunning views and a respite from the bustling city. Maybe a breeze or two. On one long, weekend visit in my early twenties, I walked through the garage adjacent to their home and stopped as the sound of a toy piano delivered a fantastic and memorable refrain. “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine,” the duo lilted. “Blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”

Were it so. Were it so. The breezes I encountered during that eleven-mile run weren’t 1970s gentle or mellow or far out. No, they were a harsh smack in the face. Those breezes laughed at my body’s early attempts to start acclimating to the impending Mount Doom weather of June, July, and August. Though I dislike running in the summer, it is hearty preparation for autumn. After putting my body through the Georgia grinder of heat, hills, and humidity, the expectation is fast times in fall races.

Yes, summer running tests the body and the mind like no other time of year; it’s a confession of one’s abilities as the mercury and dew point rise. Mile pace is substituted with effort. “Like the lover who loves the girl he’s near and clings to the kiss he’s close to and fancies the face he faces, the season I love best is the one’s that here,” writes the late cardiologist and author Dr. George Sheehan. With respect to Dr. Sheehan, whose prose about running continuously amazes me in every read, I must diverge concerning summer. I will trudge through summer, but it’s not the season I fancy. Not for a moment.

I shrug off the summer breezes. I liken them to the desert. As snowbirds head south to Florida for January, February, and March, I’d like to travel to a place like Banff, Alberta, for June, July, and August. Those summer breezes there? Fine by me.

Photo courtesy of Neal Markham

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Austin Bonds