49. The Truth about the Winter Runner

49. The Truth about the Winter Runner

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

The Truth about the Winter Runner

Running is a four weather sport.
~Author Unknown

In Siberia they call it the “breath of stars.” It happens when temperatures fall so low in winter that condensation from the breath solidifies into ice crystals before it hits the ground. Here in Minnesota it isn’t quite that bad, but there are times — during a particularly long winter’s cold snap — that it does feel like we are clinging to an existence north of the Arctic Circle. Of course, this is a point of pride for most of us. We scoff at those who set off for warmer climes when the going gets tough. Folks who trundle off to exotic places like Miami or South Padre Island where less-fortified Midwesterners can wear their flip-flops in December and not feel ashamed. These people are Minnesotans according to the Census Bureau only. If they come back for a Christmas visit sporting tan lines and bleached hair we know they’re not really one of us no matter where they pay their water bill.

If we’re really truthful, however, even those of us warped enough to stay in the frozen north all year long would much rather snuggle up with an electric blanket and a hot toddy than venture out into a frozen February morning unless we absolutely have to. After all, there are limits, even for us northerners. The only people who are the exception to this universally-held sign of common sense are those who feel the need to get up in the dark, cold morning, risking life and frostbite to go for the dreaded early-morning jog.

Frankly, most of us who are not runners simply don’t get the concept of running for joy in any kind of weather, let alone when it’s cold enough to solidify anti-freeze. On a very personal level, I’m not sure I could be convinced to run even if I was escaping a burning movie theater. Therefore the concept of a daybreak dash or a January jog is anathema to me and my brethren. Yet there are people — and plenty of them — who are up at dawn, running on ice and snow with an abandon few of us mortals can comprehend. We see them as we commute in our cozy SUVs, leaving an ever-bigger carbon footprint on Mother Earth without allowing our shoes to actually touch the ground. Oh yes, we snicker, we sneer, we honk from time-to-time. We point and giggle and laugh at their folly. And when we arrive at work, we gather together at coffee breaks to hoot about the “health nuts” we saw flinging up snow in their wake a few hours earlier. Yet somewhere lurking deep in our psyches there’s something more, something we’re often afraid to confront and would probably admit only under the most hideous torture. Somewhere deep within our condescension lies a smattering of admiration.

Yes, admiration. Like a couch potato sports fan, many of us secretly look up to those who do things we know we could never do, or for that matter, would even attempt. Much like hang gliding off Mount Everest, most of us would never dream of awaking, pre-dawn, bundling up in a jogging suit, duck down vest and knitted cap to run for fun in the snow and slop. Ice is something for gin and tonics in our secure little world, not something to be tread upon before the Today Show hits the airwaves. Yet despite our barbs and finger-pointing, those diehards who get up and run mile after mile before heading off to work or school do have a measure of our respect whether we wish to admit it or not. Consider this, then, a tip of the hat to those who don two or three of them for their daily morning run. You may not convince me to join you on your morning jog, but I’m beginning to look at your tireless efforts in a new, not-so-condescending way, even if I can’t bring myself to admit it during my 10:35 coffee break.

So keep up that pre-dawn, winter jogging routine. And forgive the rest of us for our snide comments and stinging remarks. Understand that, deep down, you have our admiration for the kind of tenacity you have that the rest of us just don’t seem to possess. It’d be nice, too, if you could keep in mind that we’re not really snickering when you tell us there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. It’s an act we must put up to fit in with the non-running crowd. Underneath it all, we know you’re right.

~Mark Spangler

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