Like the Wind x BUFF® Partnership

The Sun is classified as a a G-type main-sequence star, which formed 4.6 billion years ago. And it is massive. It has a diameter of almost 1.39 million kilometres making it 109 times bigger than the Earth. Its outer surface is currently around 150 million kilometers from our planet. And it takes 8 minutes and 19 seconds at light speed (which of course is very, very fast) for the heat and light the Sun emits to reach us. To bring that back to running, the current women’s indoor 3,000m world record is 8:16.60, set by Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba in 2014. So it would take slightly longer for light to reach us than it would for Dibaba to race 15 times around an indoor track.

Of course the Sun is one of the most important factors in life on Earth. Certainly without it, our planet would be a very inhospitable place. That is why the Sun has occupied a central place in civilisations through the ages. We measure time against the revolutions of the Earth around the Sun. We have long known that the Sun is instrumental in the weather and therefore is crucial for the success, or otherwise, of harvests. Nowadays, solar energy is seen as one of the most important ways we can minimise climate change without returning to the Dark Ages.

And for runners, the Sun plays an important part. We recognise and respond to the changing seasons, adapting our routines and what we wear to what the Sun is doing. Some of us love the feeling of running at sunrise. Others revel in finishing the day with a run at sunset, hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful colours that fill the horizon as the Sun goes down.

As the planet spins and rotates around the Sun, we get to experience longer or shorter days, better and worse weather. And that is why for many runners, the summer solstice is something to look forward to. This is the day when the Sun is visible in the sky for the longest. In the northern hemisphere, the solstice falls in June. This year it will be on 21 June. And this occurrence is traditionally a time for celebration. Even Sun worship.

This year BUFF® – the makers of neck and head accessories – have partnered with Strava to launch the Chase the Sun challenge. Between 1 June 2021 and 20 June 2021, runners who log 206 minutes of running will be entitled to 30% off BUFF® products.

And why 206 minutes? Well … that represents the date of the solstice; 20/6.

Personally I will admit that I much prefer running in warm weather. I am a big fan of long summer days when all you need are the basics to get out for a run. If I get to choose, a sunrise run is my favourite over a sunset run. And one experience linked to the Sun that had a profound impact on me, and still sticks with me to this day, involved a sunrise.

After years of chasing a faster marathon time, I had decided it was time to branch out with my running and I had started racing a few ultra-distance trail races. Immediately I fell in love with the challenge of being out in remote alpine locations, running for as many hours as there are in a working day … sometimes more (much more) and seeing sights that simply took my breath away. Eventually I had built up to the point where I felt ready to tackle the UTMB CCC – a 105km ultra along a section of the trail circumnavigating the Mont Blanc, from Courmeyer in Italy to Chamonix in France.

The day of the race dawned with blue skies and mild temperatures. Perfect conditions, I thought. But a few hours in, the weather changed. It started raining. And it didn’t stop. The climbs were relentless. The conditions underfoot were treacherous. As I trudged up the last big climb – 90km into the race – some time after 2am, after 18 hours on the go and in the pitch dark with only a spot of light from my head torch in front of my feet, I knew that once I reached the top I’d have a quad-crushing 10km decent into the finish line. I felt exhausted and completely demoralised.

Then I happened to lift my head and glance to my left. I knew that somewhere across the valley loomed the Mont Blanc itself. But what I saw, stopped me in my tracks. A razor-thin blue-white line across the sky, that resembled something like a chaotic heart-rate trace – the kind you would see on a hospital bed-side monitor. I stood for a minute and the blue-white line thickened just a little. The line the light was tracing became just a little clearer. Suddenly I realised – it was the Sun rising behind the mountains. It would be hours before actual sunrise. But at the altitude I was at, the light was just starting to make an appearance.

That moment injected a huge dose of adrenalin and motivation into my tired, dirty body. I set myself a new target – get down to the finish line before sunrise. I set off – not trudging but actually running this time. Within a kilometer or so I reached the last aid station before the run down to Chamonix. I gulped down a drink but didn’t sit. Seeing the sunlight had filled me with energy I had no idea remained in me.

The run down to the finish was a hard as I’d imagined. And as I descended into the valley, the blue-white line disappeared. I was back in the dark with just my head torch beam guiding the way. And when I reached the town centre and the finish line, it was still as dark as night. But I knew I would not forget that moment up on the trails when I glimpsed the Sun and it fired me up.

The BUFF® Chase the Sun challenge is open to all Strava users and you can register here now. It is a call to all of us to make the most of the extra daylight and the power of the Sun – I know I certainly will be (and if you want to connect on Strava, you can find me here).

Simon Freeman
Co-founder and Editor

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