Our writer joins up with the crew from the Eastwind Running Club

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SCOTT PESZNECKER - Scott Peszecker joins Eastwind Club members Nicole Richards and Vicki Hall on his first outing with the group. Let's be real — Mother Nature hasn't been kind to runners and walkers this year.

I'm an avid runner, and I have my share of war stories about braving rain, hail, sleet and snow. But I also confess to letting Mother Nature win. Happened just last week. I was laced up and ready to go when the clouds opened up. Suddenly, that 4-mile run became 10 minutes on an exercise bike and 80 calories of hot cocoa.

Mother Nature seems more determined than ever to keep runners and walkers indoors. This past February was Portland's wettest on record, and this month hasn't been much better.

Turns out, though, that Mother Nature has a weakness — she's easily beaten with a group.

Eastwind Running & Endurance is one such group. With dozens of active members in Gresham, Boring and Sandy, group members organize workouts, rain or shine, several days per week. They team up with another Gresham-based group, Will Run for Bagels, for big-turnout Saturday morning runs and walks.

This past Saturday, my wife and I woke up early to join the Saturday morning workout at the Cazadero Trail in Boring. So did 25 other group members. We did this knowing rain was in the forecast, knowing we'd likely finish cold and wet.

My wife joined up with walkers while I ran ahead with a group of faster runners. We talked about training and pushed a brisk pace, not letting up when the rain started falling about 10 minutes into our six-mile workout.

I ran with a man who'd completed his first Hood to Coast Relay last fall. He was wearing his blue finisher's shirt, smiling and moving with quick feet, like he was still taking a wrist-wrap to the beach. He just started running last year.

Another runner talked about her recent adventure with three other Eastwind members. They drove to Cannon Beach earlier in the week and ran to Seaside and back — 14 miles and 3,800 feet of elevation gain in snow, rain, hail and mud.

With a mile left in our workout, we passed one of the two lonely houses tucked back along the trail. Outside sat an early 1980s Toyota Tercel wagon. I commented how it was nearly identical to my first car. That sparked a great conversation with an ultra-marathon runner about off-road adventures in old Toyotas and Subarus.

And just like that, we were done. The rain was still falling, but Mother Nature had taken a back seat.

Running with a group isn't the only way to make cold, rainy weather more bearable. Wearing the right gear helps, too. My go-to rain gear is a long-sleeve wicking shirt, a nylon vest, a breathable hat and shorts. I also carry thin gloves (which I usually stuff in my pockets after warming up). Walkers often need warmer and more water-resistant gear to keep from getting chilled.

That said, no amount of gear has the impact of a good group — and those of us on the Eastside are fortunate to have options.

I still run alone most of the time.

Last year, I flew solo while training for the Hood to Coast Relay and Portland Marathon. However, there's a big difference between running in July versus running in March, especially in an all-time rainy season like this.

Walking or running in the rain never sounds fun. Not once have I been warm and dry in my house, looked out the window during a rainstorm and said, "I really need to get some of that."

Join a group, though, and Mother Nature just makes the camaraderie stronger.

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