A 3.3 mile out and back. A viddy on running before I begin.
Sometimes I wonder if the effort of even getting out of bed is worth it. Then I go run on a morning like we had today and I find the answer is a simple yes. I woke up several hours early today, and decided that this was going to be a good, albeit short run. I set the alarm early because I had my In-laws over today, and the only way to get a run in today was to get it in extra early. So I got myself out of bed 2 hours early on a Sunday to run, then looked to see what it was like outside . 13 degrees, Wind chill at 0. One word came to mind when I saw that, Nice. I love running, and I love cold weather running for several reasons, which will become evident as you read.
It was a beautiful, starkly cold morning, the sun sat in the sky completely unable to impart any warmth whatsoever, blocked both by clouds and an icy wind. The first few steps were the toughest, because of ice and wind and a persistent pain in my right calf. But being a runner, I know how these things go. The conditions can usually be ignored, wind is rarely of consequence, cold goes away with time, pain dissipates. Sweat is king. The wind became a non factor ten steps in, and the pain was forgotten before I got to the other side of the street.
All i can hear is the sound of my feet pounding the street.
Time to tackle the twists and turns that get me to the park. The first 2 minutes of running have a left-right-left-right combination that has me making short sharp turns every 30 -45 seconds before I get to the downhill. Traffic is rarely a factor here, these are small side streets, and are only used by people who know the area and live there, and there aren’t too many interested in being outdoors at 8:15 am on a Sunday when it’s 13 degrees out. I’m the only nut out in it, and I like it.
The next 3 minutes are downhill, not too steep, but not too moderate a hill, nothing much to tell. There is a fairly new street light there, but it rarely affects my running. I have to watch out a bit more than I would without a light, drivers being untrustable at the best of times, and the light gives them time to use their cell phones, put on make up, and generally not pay attention to what the hell they are doing. They do that normally, so when the cars they are in are stopped, they get even more into their cell phone crap and makeup than before. But knowing the enemy here makes it easy to deal with. Stay behind them, stay out of their way. The idiots in their wheeled idiot boxes are best dealt with by staying away from them, which I do at all times.
The sound of my feet and traffic fill my ears.
On this downhill I pass the park I’m going to run in. It’s a thousand trees on my right, with an army base on my left. The parks department, which has buildings on my left is usually abuzz with trucks and personnel moving around, but not this day. Today the people are inside and the vehicles are quiet, presumably the people are inside enjoying coffee and the warmth, while I’m outside enjoying the cold. After the area where the trucks are, the woods proper begins, but I don’t enter just yet. Another right turn puts me on the street where I enter the park, but I’m still a good 200 yards off of the turnoff into the park. This part of the run goes quick, and I pass the first of two paths into the park and take the second one, 26 seconds after passing the first one. And yes I have it timed that precisely, I know myself, and my speed.
A word about how I run before I go any further. I use small fast steps, I try to link breath to motion, meaning simply “two steps breathe in, two steps breaths out” Syncing my breathing to my stride rate. I tend to run on the outside of my feet for lack of a better term. Rather than land flat footed, I actually land on the outside of my heel and as i go through my stride I keep most of my weight on the outside of my feet.
Which explains the flurry of injuries I have had over the years. Back to today’s run.
The lake is to my right as i prepare to enter the park, today it is covered in ice and snow, except one patch that someone cleared. Some ducks are sitting on the ice, with others flying overhead. The lake is framed on one side with trees and on the other with a graveyard. I have walked in both of these places a fair bit, but I’m not interested in them today. Dead trees and people are only marginally interesting today. I have to keep my eyes on the paths. Sticks, ice and other stuff can wreak havoc, and I want to run, not limp, so eyes on the road.
The cold has frozen the dirt to the consistency of cement, the asphalt is actually softer, so I chose to run on it instead of the dirt path next to it. The path seems clear so I look around. People ahead… make that a person… no that’s more than one person. No worries, all are welcome here, just surprised to have company this early on this cold a day. After about 2 minutes in the park, on my right the cemetery gives way to park land and I bless myself, say a quick prayer as I am running, like I do most every run. Sometimes for others, sometimes for me, sometimes just for the strength to make it through the run. I’m not particularly religious, but when it’s something you have done every day, it gets to be part of the run. And trust me that for the two minutes or so when I’m praying I am religious, and then I return to being the evil bastard I am most of the rest of the time.
While doing this I cross a bridge that covers a stream and make a left onto the only hill in the park itself, a gradual hill, with a valley wall on my right and the stream on my left. I pass a few people, a group of 4 runners and a dog walker and his happy Labrador, who is sniffing at something or other. Every one is friendly. We runners generally are, I always say high to fellow runners passing by on the first pass. After that concentrate on the run.
The sound of my feet and the stream are all that I can hear.
At the top of the hill, prayer finished, I cross a second bridge and begin running past the second of two lakes in the park. The path is clear, except a few geese. They disperse as I go by. On my left there is a very sharp rise and houses up on a hill, the lake on my right. Frozen, but not frozen solid like the first lake. I pass two trees that are dead and down in the water. They’ve been there for a while, the second of which fell last summer, the first ones falling I do not recall.
Park benches, cracks in the asphalt as it is pushed up by tree roots, painted mile markers on the path, a few leaves. I pass the lake house, where they have upscale parties right off of the lake, and the sound of classical music floating through the air. I punch the second pole after the lake-house, just like I do every day I run, and say “first and only” It is at this point where I generally declare how many laps I’ll do. Another one of those rituals, like the prayer, that is just an everyday thing.
After about a minute or so the wind picks up as i pass the basketball court on my left, and before I pass the hockey rink, which has been in view for a minute, I salute. There is, in front of the hockey rink a plaque honoring a WWII soldier who died laying down his life for his buddies in Italy as I recall. His name, Joseph Merrill. I salute him every day, then as I pass the rink I salute the American flag that flies in front.
Rounding the outside of the rink is perhaps the hardest part of the run when things get icy, because whoever is supposed to clean behind the rink never does, and the footing can be treacherous. Today though, things are clear and easy. another runner goes by, another “Hi!” and then all at once the run gets hard. The wind, which seemed to be absent kicks up, just to remind me it’s winter.
I can’t hear my feet pounding the ground. I hear the wind, I hear myself grunt, look up, curse the wind, and smile.
This is where I run my fastest generally, flat ground, straight path, wide swath of grass on my right, trees on my left, I pass the park house again, but I can’t hear the music. Head down, push. What’s that noise? A truck? here? Look up, the parkies are cleaning the park, and are out in their truck. Guess they had to pull themselves away from their heaters long enough to do their jobs. They aren’t in the way though. They make a left before I get to them. Wave to the dog walker I passed before, whose Labrador is now carrying a stick bigger than he is and looking for all the world like the happiest dog on earth. I say hello to the happy dog and go my own way.
After another minute I reach the downhill portion of the park, try to keep a level pace. No speed today, speed is for warmer days. Passing the stream again in the other direction, and pass the group of runners I saw going in the other direction before, wave and continue. The wind howls momentarily, I howl back at it. Then another runner, then another this one for the first time going the same way I am. Pass her quickly. If I am slow she is a turtle. That’s OK, all are welcome, slow and fast alike. I am a slow mover to some people.
Packed house this morning, It’s rare for this many people to be out in this cold, running. I’m used to being by myself, but like I said, all are welcome.
After a few twists and turns, passing the first lake a second time, more ducks and trees, I hit the street, and get ready for the uphill home. I hit the left then the second left 35 seconds later and the hill starts in earnest. Head down, legs pumping, not pushing hard, just keeping moving. The wind at my back again makes the hill only slightly easier. After passing the parks dept. buildings, I cross the street after the traffic subsides, 2 blocks before the light.
Passing the light, the sound of cars and my feet fill my ears. Make a few turns, a right, a left, let traffic pass, another right, then the final left, and stop where I started. 27:52.78. I’ve had better times. I’ve had worse. I’ve run this distance 3 minutes faster. No big deal though. I’ve run longer, ran 19 miles once, so this is a shorty. No big deal though, I don’t have to be the best runner in the world everyday, just being a runner is enough.
Today’s nugget, Via wikiquote: I feel about exercise the same way that I feel about a few other things: that there is nothing wrong with it if it is done in private by consenting adults. Anna Quindlen