Running With the Water

20 May 2018 - Milford Track - Fiordland National Park

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Is it a good idea to go running in the pouring rain?

Maybe it depends where you are. Maybe it depends on whether you can get dry and warm afterward. But, in general, the answer is yes. See the blog, Waterproof Human: Running in the Rain if you’re having trouble seeing my logic. But, what about if you happen to be living in Fiordland National Park, specifically on the Milford Track? Is it a good idea?

I ask myself this question as I stand poised to exit the warm staff quarters at Clinton Hut in only shorts and a light fleece top to step into decidedly cold drops of rain. Any time the clouds shift to reveal more than grey monotony all I can see are snowy mountain tops. Cold, cold, cold and wet. A severe rain warning is in place for the park but I figure it hasn’t rained enough yet for the river to flood the track. “All the more reason to get going NOW,” I tell myself. Besides, I already know part of the answer to my question. In the simplest sense it is always a good idea to go running. Always.

Splashing through the first mile is mentally tough as I have yet to warm up or get used to being wet. I still have to fight the instinct to avoid puddles and stay dry, however futile I know the effort to be. A few more miles in and I start to enjoy myself, just as it always happens. The sound of the river rages in my ears broken only by the splashing of my feet and the occasional bird sound as I startle a few along the track: a single “eep” of a fantail in my ear, the heavy wing beats of a kereru lifting off from a branch above, and the sudden "whoosh” of a brown teal shooting out of a stream of water by my feet.

A few more bends in the forest-lined track make me wonder how far I should go. I decide I’m enjoying myself too much to stop now so I’ll just go a little further. Five minutes later I’m awestruck by a clearing that allows me to see for the first time the sheer mountain sides of the Clinton Canyon. Water roars down on all fronts in torrents of gushing white power to create a waterfall scene of unmatched splendor. I shout out in excitement and keep running through the clearing feeling a buzz of inspiration. This is incredible. This is Fiordland at its best. This is just where I want to be.

I stop for a moment to gape at the high precipices where the water begins, craning my eyes to the sky. Everything is washed of color and appears black and white. The water is white, the rock is grey, and the snow is white above. No color, just contrast of light. It is relentlessly intriguing and magnificent. The sound and the wide space add to the visual scene for a full sensory experience of wonder.

Small, happy, and alone in this palpably powerful landscape, I turn on my heels and head for “home.” I dash the puddles and streams with intention and think of how there’s nothing quite like running in a storm to make you feel unrestrained child-like glee. How truly fun it is to experience rain without the worry of staying dry! Snatching glimpses of new waterfalls through the trees and following the rolling and tumbling Clinton River along its banks I think back to my initial question. Is it a good idea? I am surrounded by the resounding answer, “YES, most certainly, YES”!

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