You inevitably get exposed to all that nature has to offer when you are enjoying the great outdoors on your runs and not stuck on some ‘dreadmill’. Some people spot the most bizarre things and situations. What do you see?
Even if you run in the concrete jungle and pound the pavement amongst other pedestrians and vehicles, you will no doubt see some interesting happenings on your journey. I find these happenings and things that I see, stimulating and add to my enjoyment of running.
There is beauty everywhere you run. You need to take it all in and embrace it all. Let your running be your vehicle to reconnect with nature and the outdoors. The usual course where I have run many times is next to a small creek. Drainage from the nearby roads empty into this creek. My course along the creek borders a few large playing fields and along parts of the course, tall reeds and grassy plants form a natural wall alongside the path. I have encountered wildlife popping in and out of the green partition onto the path. The most exotic being an orange coloured fox! There are foxes in Australia but it’s fascinating that I could spot one so close to suburbia. It ran ahead, looked around tentatively and unsure if I was in pursuit, then promptly disappeared into the bushes. There is an ecosystem that has developed along this creek. In-between breaks in the reeds and tall grasses, I see wild ducks and water birds swimming in the creek. I could understand the presence of the fox in this environment where it may prey on the birds. Numerous other native and common birds are in abundance – including pigeons, budgerigars, crows, magpies (they swoop!), cockatoos, ibises, herons, the laughing Kookaburras, and many others – I am not a bird watcher so I won’t have names for them. I have also spotted a variety of larger lizards that bask in the sun warming up for the day. These usually slither away as quick as I could spot them.
There are numerous small birds, both native and non-native, fluttering about the undergrowth and in the trees. Some of the more notable ones include kookaburras, ibises, cockatoos, rosellas, native water ducks, multicoloured pigeons and some introduced species such as Indian Mynas and Eurasian Tree Sparrows.
There are dog-walkers on a regular basis. Sometimes the dogs and their owners have some uncanny resemblances. I’ve seen a svelte and petite woman with her Chinese Crested (hairless) dog, a stocky burly man and his Rottweiler, an elderly man with his white Terrier, a long haired woman with her Australian Shepherd and a brunette bob-hair woman with her red Kelpie. I usually try to think of the name of the breed of dog. When you’re running recreationally, you may as well play some mind games and enjoy it – ‘Guess that Dog’.
Cat-walkers are like hens teeth – you don’t see them. I have only caught glimpses of various stray cats prowling whilst domesticated ones lazily mill about in front yards of houses.
The weather and environment
Outdoor runners definitely see the changes in the weather. I never thought I’d run in the rain (yet to run in the snow). I used to make excuses for myself when the weather’s not perfect for a run. Instead of making excuses, I listen to my body and check my schedule. If my body is rested and I’ve got a scheduled run, then I go for it – rain, hail or shine! I make an effort to go out early and get it done in the morning, except weekends when I have the luxury of picking a time to go run. It’s only water (or snow) – and it does feel refreshing and cleansing after a run in the rain. The air is definitely fresher when running in the rain, however, I’d be wary if it was a thunderstorm; not on my list to be struck by lightning (or falling tree branches)! There had been a fallen tree last season after some heavy rains where I usually run. So, I learnt to spot weakened trees and their shedding branches.
You also get to see the Sun and some much needed Vitamin D, but don’t look directly at the Sun. The heat from the Sun is not fun, besides the risk of skin cancer, heat exhaustion and dehydration can occur. Not saying that running in the Sun is totally out of the question but do so after taking precautions, such as sun block creams and proper hydration. The Australian summer can be very harsh and we know of days where temperatures soar way above 40°C. Running on such days is not recommended. Pick your suitable time and run in the Sun on a moderately warm day. Or run early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. It is worth it.
If you run in the mornings, you may want to try and catch the sunrise. We all know what it is but how many people see it as it’s happening? Our busy lives make it all too easy to miss such a spectacular natural phenomenon. From time to time, I get out just before the Sun peeks over the horizon. When the sunlight starts to radiate, the warmth and the light washes over me in what feels like a gentle greeting from an old friend. I enjoy the sunrise as I run and the colour changes are at times dramatic. Appreciating the start of a new day marked by the dawn is somehow soothing for the soul.
I don’t have running experience when the Sun is setting. Only when I’m walking as part of my commute home, do I get to appreciate the crimson, scarlet, orange and pink-purple tinge of a sunset. As opposed with dawn, the changes of colours and time mark the closing of a day and like a lullaby to bid the end of day.
Both dawn and dusk mark time periods when temperatures may be more comfortable for running (depending on your season). These may be ideal times that add enjoyment to your run as you can see different activities around from other people or animals.
Windy conditions will be a challenge especially if I get a headwind. I treat it as strength training as I expend more effort to cut through the air. The great things about wind include the cooling effects of my body and helping my body regulate temperature easier by drying my sweat quicker. If it’s a tailwind, I feel like a sprinter and get encouraged to run faster.
Green is good. It represents Balance and is also in the centre of the spectrum. One of nature’s indications of fertility, life and growth and indicates the presence of water. From a colour psychology point of view, it gives us the sense of balance, harmony, peace and restoration.
When you run in a green environment compared to the concrete jungle, take mental notes about how the overall colours affect you. Green plants gives me a sense of healing and suggests stability and endurance. When I run for a length of time surrounded by greenery, I’m comforted and seem less effort is expended on my run. Running in man-made concreted areas seems harder and harsh.
You’re not alone. Depending on where you run, you are probably not alone. The park or trail may be popular with others and you will see people of all sizes and ethnicity. I always admire those that look like they have a purpose or mission. They have a kind of look that says I’m here to do something to better myself. These people may be walkers (including dog-walkers), runners or cyclists. The mission may be to lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle or train for their sport.
The cyclists with purpose are usually dressed the part. They have the necessary safety equipment to protect them from the elements or from falls. Cyclists are my favourite people to pursue. I tend to sprint a little faster after them as if caught up in the slipstream. It’s the opposite when the come the other way – it feels like an imaginary cone of invisible force pushing me backwards as they approach me head on.
Lastly, there are usually other runners that use the same course and trail. I sometimes get the sense that some are real competitive and will either increase their cadence or pace so I can’t catch up – but sometimes I do! There are other budding runners and by that I mean people who are training to run. They are usually walking and running. I can tell they aim to lose weight by moving more and including running in their regime. I admire these people as they’re out there doing it! No excuses for not getting out there.
Most of all, I get to see some usual faces on my runs and we acknowledge each other with a nod, smile or wave. It makes it that little bit more worthwhile to be out there enjoying the outdoors.
As usual, just Run, Sweat and Repeat the cycle again. So it is not all just me alone on my runs. What do you notice when you’re outdoors running?