I was sitting in the hair salon, trying to block out the persistent TV commercials for back massagers and ab rollers, and thinking of how spoiled I am to have my hair restored to a ‘natural’ color by chemically noxious means, when the stylist asked me how often I run.
“Four to five times a week,” I replied, most(ly) honestly.
“What do you do when it snows?”
Was that a question? It took me a moment to process what she was asking.
“I still run outside,” I finally answered, realizing that replying “I wear a hat,” might come across as flippant.
“Don’t you have a machine you could use?”
I thought about it. In fact, I did use the ‘machine’ for much of my training for my first marathon. But now, true to cliché, it has laundry piled on it.
The machine I might use is the elliptical, which stands steadfast beside the treadmill, and I only use it if gale force winds are blowing tiles off the roof, and I have no flex in my schedule, which means it is also collecting dust, because those two events rarely concur.
I much prefer to be outside in wind, rain, small pellets of hail, snow, sleet, and occasionally, sunshine.
But this time of year can be hard for runners. The combination of dark roads and mud can make it dangerous. I know this will astonish those who knew me when I left Alaska–vowing to never step foot in snow again, but I like the snow here.
Don’t tell anyone!
I enjoy frozen roads, because it means I don’t sink ankle-deep in farm mud. And there’s nothing more magical than running during a snowstorm. It’s like running in a snow globe, only sometimes your eyelashes freeze.
Running through mud is more difficult than running through snow, because there are so many different types of it. Some mud is obvious, and you think ‘light’ thoughts as you tiptoe through it. But other mud gets spread on the roads from tractor tires, making a layer more treacherous than any form of ice.
When there’s ice I usually know it ahead of time, so I can slap on the YakTrax and avoid the patches that look like skating rinks, or I can stick to the frozen mud trails and avoid pavement altogether. But some mud LOOKS like the road, so sometimes you don’t see it until you step in it, or slip through it.
I use to avoid running on mud at all costs, but it doesn’t stop me anymore, though it might slow me down.
Normally, I spend the winter hibernating and fattening up, and then in March I wake up and kick myself for getting so out of shape. This year I want to run a marathon in March, so it means keeping up the pace, no matter what the weather.
This week I embarked on my first long run since the last marathon. While I was out, it began to lightly snow. I had planned on only running 3 miles, but the countryside was so pleasant and quiet, I ended up running 12 miles.
Sure, my calves were stiff afterwards from my new minimalist shoes, but I was in this ‘zone’ where everything just felt right, and I simply glided along, feeling strong and happy. I LOVE that feeling, and I hope to repeat it often.
Sometimes I look back and am amazed to see how far I’ve come, and how running has changed everything from the way I parent, to how I face challenges, to my spiritual life. I can only see positives.
It is important to get out there and face the challenges of the trail, but what’s really wild is to see the things you have learned to love along the way.
So if the weather is miserable, put on a hat and slog through it, because if you envision yourself running for a lifetime, learn to enjoy the road, mud and all.