Justin Ricklefs


Running into the Rain

“I’ll bring a couple ziploc baggies with me for my phone, and I’ll leave my AirPods at home…”

There was a 100% chance of thunderstorms (which has basically been every day in KC since March, it seems), and Brooke thought my idea to leave for a run that Saturday evening was, well, idiotic.

I don’t run incredibly far, or fast, but for me, running has become a steady staple. A way to breathe in a bit of nature, and burn through a bit of anxiety.

So I wasn’t too concerned about the rain, and frankly, thought it might be kind of fun to run in anyway.

The skies to the west were nasty, as I headed up from our house and out of the neighborhood. But a couple quick lefts later, I was running east, with nothing but big blue skies, and beautiful clouds ahead.

I could feel the storm in the air though, regardless of what I saw ahead. You know the feeling. Where it just feels a little crisper, and even smells like the rain’s coming.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t run incredibly far or fast, but I was moving well enough to outrun the storm. Keeping it at my back for the 2.5 mile leg to the take-a-break-and-turn-around spot.

And when I turned around?

Those blue skies were long gone.

To the west, it was full of the eerie grayish/greenish palate of colors that would be labeled “Midwest Thunderstorm” if Sherwin-Williams sold such a paint.

I quite literally turned back to the east for a second, to the comfort of the blue sky. Wondering if there was another route home. Or maybe I could keep running that direction a bit further, far enough to get somewhere to stop and call Brooke for a ride home, before the rain came.

By that time though, there was no avoiding it. It was seconds from opening up on me.

I wouldn’t last very long in an outdoor survival show, but I did have my trusty ziplocs with me for my phone (gotta get those Strava miles in otherwise the run doesn’t count). Double bagged that sucker, said “here we go” out loud like a weirdo, and headed right into the storm.

Within seconds, it was raining so hard that I wondered if it was hailing. It wasn’t, it just hurt like hell (and not because my fast pace was making the drops hurt, ha). I turned my backwards hat, forwards. To keep the rain from pelting my face.

Brooke texted, “Justin, it’s pouring!”

I voice texted back through the double ziplocs (pro tip – for some reason your touch still works through them), “I am good.”

And I meant it.

I’ve spent a good deal of my life trying to outrun the storms that brewed behind me.

Proverbially, running east. When the storms were forming in the west.

Chasing the sunshine and road ahead, in an attempt to avoid the pain in the rearview.

I’m sure this instinct of optimism and positivity has helped me to some degree, even benefited me. But I’m equally as sure that no matter the pace or distance, the storm always catches up.

It’s bigger, stronger, faster, and more powerful.

But as I ran back home that evening, running through a creek that a few minutes before was a sidewalk, deep down in my soul, I smiled.

The running in the rain was a spiritual experience, actually. The thunder clapping, the rain pouring, the cars whizzing by and spraying, the drenching to the bones.

Here’s one thing about storms, that I’m learning, even when my animal instincts kick in and try to flee the scene for blue skies at the first hint of gray clouds still…


And listen, some storms really fucking suck (sorry for the language, mom and dad 😬). Bad.

I’ve been in many. I’ve caused terrible ones. I’ve held on to friends and family for dear life through some of their own.

I’m not minimizing the storms.

But we spend far more energy running from them, praying they won’t come, complaining about them, wishing them away, and being terrified of them, than we do accepting them, embracing them, and allowing them to do their work in us with an open hand.

It’s way easier said than done, but what if we started running headfirst into the storms instead?

What would it look like to run in the rain instead of hide from it?

How would we grow if we looked west, said “here we go”, and found the courage to lean right into the hard stuff?

By the time I got to the two right turns to get back into our neighborhood, the rain was long gone. It was a 12-15 minute torrent, but then it moved through.

The blue sky in the west emerged, after Midwest Thunderstorm moved east.

It was there all along. Just waiting for the storm to briefly do its work. Its good, powerful, and healing work.




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