It’s cold outside, as I exhale, my breath is visible in the afternoon shade. It’s my first cool run of the season, and I’m more than mentally prepared. Probably because it took me 10 more minutes than it usually does to gather all of my warm gear. There are a lot of wardrobe changes at this time of the season. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and yet there are many that pack up their shoes when ‘Jack Frost’ appears. I’ve got a beanie on my head, a base layer under my track pants, a base layer under my jacket, covered with a long sleeve, and a face mask to protect me from the cool breeze. Along with a good pair of running gloves, this outfit will keep me as warm as I will ever need to be winter running. Though If I want to handle this 18km route, I’ve got to get moving before sundown. It’s that or complete darkness in the forest trails.
I hurry out of my back door, and turn on my watch. It’s connected quickly and as I exit my back gate, I’m already running; headed north on the trail towards my destination. I plan on facing “the hill” at midpoint in the run. I’ve been to a place of exhaustion at “the hill” point of this workout before and I don’t like going there, as it’s tough to get home afterwards. This workout and I have history, it’s a nice mainstay run that I like to keep around to test my fitness. A nice mix between trail and road, interchangeable, no-double backing, some good hills, and car friendly in the winter months-that’s a perfect route in my opinion.
My pace has picked up since my muscles have gained some warmth. My breathing is causing me to cramp just slightly as the cold of winter enters my lungs. Time to pull the face mask up I suppose. I’m not used to the cool air yet. The air is crisp, and clean. The forest trails are quiet and I can hear the leaves break under my feet and float in the air as I rush past them. I’m contemplating the workout, my upcoming training plan, upcoming races, and snowshoe running. It’s times like this that I’m reminded about the beauty of winter running.
I exit the canopy of the forest trail and pass a fellow group of runners. One of their members tosses me a high five. You’ve got to appreciate the camaraderie of our sport. I pause my Garmin for a second to shake it out, and stretch before continuing. A kilometere and a half later I realize I’ve forgotten to press start on my watch. As much as my forgetfulness bugs me, I’m able to regain focus as I arrive at the bottom of the notorious hill at about 10km in. I enjoy coming into a workout that should beat me up, and leaving it knowing that I still feel good.
I look up the side of the hill, and go for it. As I press the pace, I’m motivated thinking about Around the Bay in 30K that I’m signed up for in March. It’s my motivation. Once I get to the other side I’m confident I’ll make it home easy, there have been many times that I’m fraught with fatigue and crashing at this point. I attribute my strength coming into this hard workout to some recent squat workouts. I’ve been trying to squat until I can’t squat anymore once a week. It definitely helped on this run. The best part of this run was despite the cold of winter, I was warm the entire time!
There is a lot about winter running that’s amazing. A few points I’ll make to those unconvinced:
1) On a hot day, it’s hot, there’s nothing you can do to change a really hot run. On a cold day, you can dress warmer and work up a sweat.
2) You feel more like a warrior when you winter run, because your eyelashes get frost and not many have discovered winter running so they think your crazy. Reinforcing that warrior feeling. (After all, it only takes 5 minutes to warm up)
3) There’s so much to see in the winter season that’s not there in other seasons. Everything in nature looks different.
4) The air feels clean, crisp and pure. When you come back from a run in the cold, you smell of the outdoors. You smell and feel fresh.
5) Every run is different. Less snow, more snow, slushy snow. Every time is a new adventure, dive in. (Don’t be scared about footing, most sidewalks are cleared. For trails there’s running snowshoes, and shoe spikes for ice)
6) You get to go shopping! You don’t need to though. For a few years I wore a hoodie, track pants, and a lot of my summer gear underneath. It worked fine, running is about the experience not the gear. I still love my hoodie – I feel like Rocky!
Here’s to you and embracing your love of winter!