Winter Running

Winter Running

Winter Running

As temperatures plummeted to near zero a couple weeks ago, I contemplated going out for my run. The recent foot or more of snow complicated matters. Maybe my run for this day could wait until tomorrow.

Tomorrow? Nothing doing. I found my cold-weather clothes and out I went. And, I suspect many Michigan runners do likewise, regardless of the winters we face. We seem to take a sort of masochistic, perverse pleasure in getting out in the cold and snow when most (sane?) people are reaching for their fleece snuggies and hot toddies. Go ahead, admit it: doesn’t your chest puff up just a bit with pride after finishing such a run?

Our state offers four unique and distinct running seasons, each with its own characteristics and pleasures. And winter must just be my favorite time to run.

Among my very favorite runs are those in a couple inches of freshly fallen snow. If I can get to a nearby trail or back road, with little or no vehicular traffic, there’s not much that’s more peaceful and quiet. It’s one of those “spiritual” moments described by Warren Kay in his book, Running—The Sacred Art.

Normally snow and even bitter cold don’t stop me from running. Oh, occasionally a very heavy downfall and, especially, very strong winds might cause me to pack it in for the day. But rarely, very rarely, is that so. I’ve run a 20-mile marathon training run in Fenton, with a couple hundred other hardy souls (soles?), on unplowed roads after a 9” overnight snowfall. I’ve run in temperatures, not wind chills, lower than 10 degrees below zero. A couple of weeks ago, the e-mails questioning my sanity started flying after a buddy saw me running in those post-Christmas 60 mile per hour winds.

Treadmills, gyms, and health clubs might provide winter running venues for some people. That’s good for them, but not for me. I want to get outside. Snowy? Too cold? No, those aren’t reasons for me not to get outside—or to use Karen’s treadmill.

It’s not the elements that stop me from running. It’s easy to dress appropriately. I don’t remember ever being cold, once I warmed up. After all, when the snow and low temperatures come, do the skiers stay home? Neither do runners.

My primary concern is safety, namely treacherous footing and, particularly, traffic. But a little planning, such as slipping on a pair of spiked overshoes or carefully choosing a running route, can minimize the dangers.

No doubt, our nonrunning friends think this is sheer lunacy. During that Fenton run in the 9” of snow, a police officer helping out kept repeating, “You guys are nuts!” Last winter, while I was out in sub-zero temperatures, a woman stopped her van, rolled down her window, and sputtered, “You’re the,” she hesitated, as if searching for the right word, then finished, “epitome of dedication.” It sounded like she really wanted to say “epitome of lunacy.” But it’s not lunacy at all.

Like all Michiganders, runners grouse about our weather—it’s too hot or too cold, snowing or raining. But we aren’t serious about our griping. We don’t mean it. We treasure our weather and all it brings. Running in these extremes gives us bragging rights to wear like badges of honor. The Ancient Romans, to exhibit pride, stamped “SPQR” on their coins, buildings, and even plumbing. “We’re Romans,” they publicly and proudly proclaimed. Running outside in the winter allows us to echo them, “We’re not wimps! We’re Michigan runners!”