Runner, layered in mud, stares off exhaustively after Boys Blue Division race. Photos by Alison Markham throughout.
From Drought To Drenched
I went to a meet nearly every weekend this fall starting in Mid-August and not once was I worried about my camera equipment getting wet. By the Tennessee State Championship in early November, the lead car was driving so far in front of the runners to avoid kicking up dust, it was hard to determine what purpose they were serving at all. With Huntsville situated just south of the Tennessee border, the same can be said about their weather patterns this year. For the entire months of September, October, and November, Huntsville recorded just 13 days of measureable rainfall and a total of 3.35 inches with 53% of that falling during one "rain event" starting on November 21st when 1.76 inches fell in a 48 hour period. The next highest rainfall total was just 0.32 inches.
Needless to say, athletes in the Southeast had a season of uninterupted training and racing conditions this fall and those who showed up to RunningLane last Saturday were ready to let one rip. Unfortunately for the second year in a row, PR'ville became Mudville when 1.85 inches fell on December 2nd, the highest single day rainfall since August 10th. This prompted me to research on whether or this is the norm or if we've just been getting unlucky.
A Decade Of Data
For starters, I am not a meteorologist but if you want to hear one explain the weather pattern that caused the rain event on Saturday, Ryan Hall Y'all does a great job in this video. This, however, only helps to explain why it rained this year. For my purposes, I looked at a decade of weather data from the last ten to see if runners should anticipate dry or wet conditions in North Alabama this time of the year and here are the averages since 2014.
2014 - Present
|Average Total Rainfall
Average Number Of
Days With Rainfall
Average Highest Single
Day Rainfall Total
|Highest Rainfall % Of Total
Average Rainfall Per
Remaining Measurable Days
|Average High Temperature
Wet, Dry, Or Just Unlucky?
It's a little bit of a mixed bag as how you want to interpret this information as it doesn't necessarily point to any definitive conclusions one way or the other. On the surface, December is wetter than November. Most incidents of rain in these months are under an inch with outlier events over a inch occuring at a rate of once in November and twice in December.
Moreover, there's a 75% chance it WILL NOT rain on any given day in November or December and the statisitcal probability that it RAINED ON the day of RunningLane two years in succession is just 6.25%. Rain on the day of may only be part of the problem. In 2022, John Hunt Park wasn't saturated by the rain that fell on the day of the race but rather the rain that fell on November 30th. The Wednesday leading up to RXC-3 was the second highest single day rain total of the entire calendar year when 3.05 inches fell in 24 hours. It would then rain again on Friday into Saturday another 0.13 inches which was too much for the already rain-soaked course to absorb just a couple of days later.
As previously mentioned, this past Saturday the 1.85 inches that fell was also the second highest single day rain total of the 2023 calendar year so far.
So if you've been following along, here are the highest single day rain totals in Huntsville for the past two years:
- March 23rd, 2022 - 3.64 Inches
- November 30th, 2022 - 3.05 Inches (3 days before RunningLane)
- August 10th, 2023 - 1.92 Inches
- December 3rd, 2023 - 1.85 Inches (Day Of RunningLane)
It would take a little more number crunching than I have time for but the likelihood of having the second highest rainfall totals in successive years within three days of a specified date for a specific location is probably close to zero percent.
But Now What?
While RunningLane is still very much in the zeitgeist of high profile cross country events for high schoolers, the last two years will undoubtedly take a little wind out of it's sails which is unfortunate because those elements were out of Sean Allan and Will Rodgers, the meet director's, control.
What they can control they've been able to deliver on since the meet's inception: a race with high caliber teams, high caliber athletes, and custom kits.
I think back to this quote from Sean in an interview with them leading up to the 2021 event:
"For those top teams and programs we are working... to try to give them that same experience they would've had at Nike."
While we may never see a field like 2021 assembled in Huntsville (or anywhere for that matter) ever again, Saturday showed me that, in spite of the conditions, RunningLane is still a place where national caliber teams, like Fossil Ridge, like Cherry Creek, like Sky Ridge, like Farragut, and like Brentwood, can have a place where they can be acknowledged, promoted, and recognized as if they were in Portland.
Ultimately, don't let the last two years put a damper on your view about this event. The conditions and the times will come back and hopefully you will too.