Saturday, February 2, 2013

Winter Running Warms the Soul

Caleb made this sign and attached it to our front door.  He doesn't speak for everyone in the house!

I used to have standards.  A line in the sand, have you, that I would not cross.  Mentally, I formulated guidelines.  Weather conditions in which I would not run outdoors.  I decided freezing temps sounded like a good threshold.  So, if the barometer hovered close to the 30 degree mark, I'd ditch my running tights in favor of  athletic shorts.  Then, I'd make a beeline for the treadmill.  Sure, I felt a bit like a hamster on a wheel, but it was warm and dry...and did I mention warm?

Then I started running with a group of women with roots in the North.  One woman hails from northern Indiana, another native Canadian, and a third married to a Minnesotan (cold-blooded by osmosis?).  These women didn't view cold weather running in quite the same way as me.  

Emily, the Canadian, seems completely without any outdoor running standards.  No temperature is too cold.  No snow accumulation is too deep.  No icy roads are too treacherous.  In fact, she even seems a bit in her element running around in the cold.  I can almost see her smile as the blustery winds whip into her face and the snowflakes shower her forehead.

This winter we've had several days where the temperatures dipped into crazy cold digits.  The night before a run, an email/text exchange will typically go like this:

Me:  Looks like it's going to be really cold tomorrow.  Maybe we should cancel.

Girls:  It will be fine.  Just dress warm.

And so I learned the northern girls' winter outdoor running tip:  You can always dress for the weather.

Each time, I so easily wanted to type back "see ya'll in the spring!," but a little part of me felt like a wimp.  Like if I don't run through the muck and the cold I can't call myself a true runner.  Somehow I've adopted the notion that true runners trot through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And so I reply (with grit teeth) "be there" and arrive the next day on the trail in conditions that would make most question my sanity.  I wrap myself up in so many layers that I look a bit like the Michelin man or the little boy in "A Christmas Story."  (You know, the one so bundled up that his arms wouldn't bend to his sides.)  I encase myself in four layers on top, two on the bottom, headwear, and gloves with hand warmers.

Once fully bundled, I think, "Why can't I run with people from Florida?  I bet they're not out running in these conditions!"

This morning I ran.  It was crazy, I know.  The temperature was 18 with accumulated snow.  After a few strides, I realized I was comfortable - dare I say even warm.  And so I started to relax and truly enjoy the scenery.  The trail was bare and so quite.  (Most sane runners still nestled in their beds!)  The snow seemed to illuminate the path and powdery branches formed a canopy over the trail.  The surrounding was so peaceful and serene that it almost felt like running through a church where one must be reverent, talking in hushed tones and offering nods of appreciation.

By the end of the run, I felt rejuvenated.  Somehow, it warmed my heart and tingled my soul.  

[I still hold some standards.  No running is icy conditions, single digits, and thunderstorms.  That's a line I won't cross!]

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