First of all, I am putting this post in a couple of places. I just felt that it fit both.
Well, here goes. A few days ago, I was skimming an article by Runners World, http://www.runnersworld.com/hot-weather-running/what-runners-should-know-about-lightning/slide/1. I just happened to see this article and it made me think about one of my mantras - I hate lightning. I run almost seven days a week in all kinds of weather - except thunderstorms. In fact, I will change my running plans if there is even a hint of a thunderstorm. I have been known to do a 10 mile run by doing multiple loops around my block (.53 miles) because of dark clouds.
However, skimming this article made me feel just a bit silly. Was it really all that dangerous? Despite having lightning strike very close to me during a couple of ultramarathons, I briefly started to wonder if I was just being obsessive.
Then came yesterday. I went out for a run and I started noticing some dark clouds. I debated my route - should I cut it short or just keep going. I decided to cut it short and head back to the running store where I work part time. The sky got increasing dark, the air chilled, and by the time I got back to the store, a light rain had started. The light rain turned to a downpour with quarter size hail. The hail was accompanied by lightning strikes about every 10-15 seconds. The winds picked up and a couple of tornadoes were spotted just a few miles away from the store. No worries right - just a thunderstorm.
On my way home, because of a downed tree, all traffic had to detour through a neighborhood just a mile away from the store. This is the neighborhood that I would have been running through when the storm hit had I gone the longer route. This neighborhood looked like a war zone. Every yard had a downed tree. As I weaved through this detour, I counted no less than 12 houses crushed by giant oaks and pines. Luckily, no one was severely injured despite all the tremendous property damage; a truck at the nearby McDonald's had a 30 foot long tree spiked through its windshield.
My point is this. Had I been outside running through this neighborhood, I can't imagine that I would have escaped without serious injury. Take lightning and summer storms seriously. Put off a run, go indoors, and be patient. I almost doubted myself out of following a hardset rule "I don't run in thunderstorms."
WOW! Your cautionary tale needs to be read by everyone who loves the outdoors. Thanks for sharing your experience Christopher and thankfully you made the right decision to get back and out of the storm. There is always another day that to Run Happy.
You are not alone. I live in tornado ally. I don’t hate lightning, because it gives the earth its much needed ozone, but I surely respect it. I must have one great guardian angel looking over me, because I have survived being struck twice by lightning and have had several other close calls. Because of these experiences, I have great respect for lightning and the weather. This is the advice I give to all runners I coach and advise:
Always error on the side of safety. Safety first!
You cannot control the weather.
Be prepared for any weather and plan accordingly.
Start checking the forecast for the upcoming week of training.
Do not panic if the weather is not ideal
Ideal running and walking weather is 50-55°F, partly cloudy, lower humidity (40-60%), low winds.
Be flexible in your training schedule.
If adverse weather is predicted for a day you have planned on running outside or a hard run, think of running or walking a day earlier or later or inside or cross train.
Be cautious of traffic in bad weather because drivers are less likely to see you.
Do not run or walk outside if you see lightning or hear thunder!
Wait at least 30 minutes after last lightning and thunder before thinking of running or walking outside. Light can strike ten miles away from the cloud.
If storms are predicted, stay close to home and run or walk a loop course.
Inform someone where you will be running or walking and instruct them to pick you up in a vehicle at the first sign of lightning or thunder.
Error on the side of caution and safety.
If your running in the Rocky Mountains, small clouds in the afternoon hours can and will produce lightning. Make sure you are heading down a mountain by afternoon time.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have many friends who will still run through a storm, but I'm like you, if there's a chance of a thunderstorm popping up, I'll change my plans. It's actually how I started going to Jazzercise, as an option for stormy days. I had a friend lose her dad to a lightning strike when we were in high school. It had been a clear day, where he was on the farm, but there was a storm nearby. That will always come to mind when storms are on the forecast.