Last year, I finally experienced something that many runners before me had discovered: a love of running. It didn't happen overnight and it was something that I never expected, but over time, running morphed from something I "should" do into something that I wanted to do.
That said, this is the first winter that I am running outdoors and making every effort to stick with my routine, even though the rain, snow and dropping temperatures are doing their best to keep me from it. Until recently, I hadn't exercised outside in any temperatures colder than 20 degrees.
Last Monday, I checked the Tuesday morning weather report to see what I was up against. It wasn't pretty: 17 degrees and snow. But more importantly, the weather website predicted that it would "feel like" 8 degrees outside. Yikes!
I laid out my gear (reflective vest, fleece gloves and headband, iPod, Garmin, the works), layered up and went to bed in my workout clothes that night. I wasn't fully committed to the next day's workout. After all, I do not like mornings, winter or snow, so the odds of me being successful were stacked against me.
When I awoke and peeked through my blinds, I saw my street and sidewalk covered in snow. "Great," I thought. "How am I supposed to run in two inches of snow?" I'm more than paranoid about slipping and falling when it's icy, wet or snowy outside. I think this stems from an unforgettable—and painful—fall I took as a kid when walking to the bus stop. I put on my second layer of clothes: lined pants (on top of my running tights), a zip-up fleece with a mock turtleneck (on top of my long sleeved performance top), and a second fleece headband—not for my head and ears, but to wrap around my face to warm my nose, mouth and breath. (I was a remarkable sight, let me tell you.)
When I got outside, it didn't feel too cold, certainly not like 8 degrees (I would guess closer to 20). As I walked to the end of my street to begin my run, I kept finagling with my earphones, which didn't want to stay in place with two headbands wrapped around my head (epic fail!), so I shoved my iPod into my pocket and ran without music (another feat I would have never attempted a year ago).
Despite the cold, snow and lack of entertainment, this winter run was unlike all the others that I had done before it. Without music blasting in my ears, my other senses were heightened and I think I enjoyed myself as much—or maybe more—than when I work out to my favorite songs. Without music to motivate me or set my pace, I had to listen to my own body to set the tone for the day's workout. I heard my deep breaths, indicating that I was working hard—something I never really noticed before. I listened to every single step that packed the snow underneath me to form a perfect footprint, making a squeaky sound as I jogged slowly down the block. I watched the airy snowflakes, float down before me like miniature feathers. It was beautiful! They weren't in a hurry and neither was I. Occasionally, one would land on my eyelashes or my cheeks only to melt on contact.
I could have viewed this cold, dark morning as something dreadful. I could have focused on the slippery sidewalks, below freezing temperatures or my cold nose, but I chose to view it as something magical, almost like a kid who wakes up to snow on Christmas morning. It was my version of playing in the snow, something I haven't done since I was a lot younger.
With a couple inches of snow on the sidewalk, there is no such thing as running fast. I had to be extra careful about where I stepped and how I picked up my feet. I ran for 24 minutes that morning (my short run for the week), and only managed to cover 2 miles, but I didn't care. Sometimes, no matter how fast or slow you're moving, whether you're near or far away from your goal, sometimes you just have to accept what is and enjoy the journey itself.
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