There’s nothing like the first 60 degree run of spring to make you realize just how intense winter training can be. My running partner and I had a “winter run flashback” session as we donned shorts for the first time in months. In our marathon training review, we determined that two sub-zero Saturdays had sent us to the indoor track, and six other Saturdays probably sent more “sane” runners to that same track. Instead, we battled blatant and snow covered ice patches, as well as black ice. There was blowing, wet, and icy snow. One morning, we faced a white-out. Thirty plus mile an hour winds (an estimate) were another highlight of this “Well what do you expect, you live in Wisconsin” December to March running tour. Seriously, in retrospect, what were we thinking?
On the “granddaddy of all runs from hell,” we not only had gale force winds, but snow, sleet, and black ice (oh my!) to contend with. Talking was impossible; survival was our only focus on this, our 18 mile run. At about the 10-mile point, I was completely and utterly miserable, and really had no idea how I was going to make it back. I considered my fate: fingers and toes that felt like ice blocks, a sudden relapse of plantar fasciitis in my right foot coupled with a budding new left knee pain, icicles forming on my lashes (could this damage them permanently?), a frozen face, and to top it off, I needed a restroom in a way that only runners and Mexican tourists can understand.
Things were so bad that they actually were kind of funny to me at that point. I thought, what if my mom or dad, or anyone else who had never experienced a run of this magnitude were suddenly plopped into this very dire predicament? They surely would freak out, and after five seconds, I know my mom would say something like, “Just stop, go inside where it’s warm. This is crazy. Don’t put yourself through this.” My dad would use his line reserved for my running, and things like sky diving or bungee jumping, “This is foolishness.”
However, as I thought about that advice and the “outs” it could provide me, I realized that stopping wasn’t an option. At that moment in time, I hated the cold, the wind, and the fact that I was a runner. Let’s face it, I hated everything. But I knew that by pressing on, and giving it everything I had, that I’d be stronger in the end for it. So I forged ahead, with visions of my toasty home and all of its plumbing glory. I forged ahead, because when you are 8 miles from home, half frozen at 7 on a Saturday morning, there isn’t anything else you can do. You just need to keep moving until you’ve run yourself right back to that place where you are safe and warm and happy again.
And that place, just like our runs/journeys, is different for each one of us. The most important thing to remember is that we’ve all got what it takes inside to make it through whatever “the granddaddy of all runs” has in store for us. We can overcome it, one step at a time.