As summer fades in the rearview mirror and I cross my fingers that we’ve used our air conditioning for the very last time, I am ready to welcome the best running season of all: fall.

Running is a four-season sport, to be sure. Winter makes me feel like a bada*s, braving snow and frigid temps. Spring is usually an obstacle course of mud, allergies, and the occasional freak snow storm, but there are also flowers peeking through the slush and hope for warmer days to come. Summer blazes bright with its heat and humidity, but it also offers less structure on weekends. (Translation: long runs don’t feel rushed and post-run ice cream is a must.)

Yet there is something extra special about fall.

fall running

Fall is long shadows and crisp air and cheering for cross country

By September, running is suddenly everywhere. The trails I frequent in Colorado are peppered with high school cross country runners, and their earnestness and grit are palpable. My local parks are a mishmash of chalk lines and flags, marking weekend race courses. Cities like New York and Chicago are gearing up for their major events, and my favorite running brands are back to their cunning ways, distracting me with their must-have apparel. There are starting guns and eager attitudes and group runs and new shoes, and it just feels like running is having its red carpet moment. 

Fall is when running comes out of the wings and takes its rightful place at center stage.

Gone are the days when I stagger home from a hot, sweaty, dusty workout and find relief with the garden hose full blast in my face. Now I kick off my shoes inside the front door and brew my coffee, invigorated—not drained—ready for a warm drink and a hot shower.

As the days grow shorter, opportunities to watch the sunrise grow more frequent. Getting out of bed because I can sneak in a workout before the rest of the world is fully awake is a thing again. Selfishly, I love when dark, fall mornings allow me to spy in lit living rooms and see how others are starting their day. The mood is warm and cozy, and I revel in it.

All my long-sleeve tees and capris, long ago shoved to the bottom of my running gear and patiently waiting their turn, are moved back into rotation. The first morning the temps are in the low 50s and I slip on an extra layer, I feel as fresh and fast as a rabbit, and I swear my shoes feel like they’ve been sprinkled with pixie dust.

Fall is the golden hour of running, when the low sun slants through the trees and makes the hills look like a scene Monet would paint; when leaves are so beautiful they take your breath away, and I play counting games as they crunch underfoot: 10 yellow, 6 red, 8 orange. Mother Nature, after working so hard to produce and thrive, finally lets go of her responsibilites and allows herself to just be; we are rewarded with her farewell act that somehow feels even more extraordinary because we know how fleeting it is. What a gift to witness her beauty on two feet.

When it comes to running, do you agree fall has it all?