Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winterize it.

Recently, I've been asked by a couple people who know that I love to run, whether or not I am still running now that winter has a full-on grip on the Yampa Valley.  This is a completely valid question because winter in Steamboat means very short days, frigid temperatures and copious amounts of snow.  (They don't call this place Ski Town, USA, for nothing.)  To be sure, these are some serious obstacles to overcome and I can understand why anyone, particularly non-runners, would think that somebody was crazy, or just plain stupid, for wanting to go out when conditions get so gnarly.   

The short answer is, of course, yes, I run all winter long.  (Usually, this is where people roll their eyes and walk away, satisfied in knowing that I am an idiot who loves to punish himself.)  I've tried to elaborate on the reasons but even if they are a little fascinated by my mental illness, it seems that most just can't fathom why someone would purposefully make themselves uncomfortable.   The reasons will vary for each runner, but for me, it boils down mainly to adventure and lifestyle.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Noah, who has a great running blog called "Moore on Running, wrote about how every run instills a sense of adventure in him and this drives him to go on that run and look forward to the next.  I don't think he could have been more right about this.  No matter what the conditions or location, going for that run is a step into the unknown.  A good run, I like to think, is not just a physical experience but a mental one as well.  There will be motion and also, emotion.   At some point in a run, you may feel frustrated and angry because you aren't as smooth or as fast as you would like to be only to have that replaced with the elation of finding your stride and cruising along somewhat effortlessly.  Running teaches us to push through tough times in our life, to keep striving and work hard to get where we want to go.  It doesn't really matter how fast or far you go.  Those are self-imposed limits.  Just that you went out and MADE yourself move forward.  Maybe at a time when you didn't particularly want to.  Still, you did.  And because you chose to, in that moment, you controlled your life, your destiny.  At the end, it reveals the result of putting in that work and the adventure of getting where you otherwise would not have gone.   

In the winter, it's easy to look at the weather and think about how hard it's going to be running in the cold and snow.  Instead, I look at it as an opportunity to prepare for my run (life) in a different way because the challenges will be a little bit different.  Then, I will take pleasure in how running is different in the winter compared to the warm months. How the mental and physical challenges are different.  I don't get to just throw on my shorts, shirt and shoes.  Instead, I layer in breathable, moisture-wicking material, put traction on my feet and a headlamp to guide my way.   I relish the solitude I will find on a snow-packed trail, a chance to listen to my feet crunch on the snow and my breath push and pull cold air into my lungs.  It doesn't matter if I am just running or just hiking.  As long as I am moving.  The world outside my light beam falls away and all that matters is a little forward motion.