Monday, November 12, 2012

Winter Running Season

Well, (sigh)... it happened. This morning.

I was in the car, on the way to the dentist when... it snowed.

Sure, I dropped an F-bomb... but, as a tribute, yeah... in memory of the passing of fall.

But, every new season, even winter, is a new beginning.

In particular, it's the beginning of a new race season.

Given my current state of fitness, I should be putting quotes around "race". And probably around "fitness", too.

That won't keep me from shelling out a few bucks for a good cause and toeing the starting line at some local races, though. Actually, I'll be nowhere near the staring line at the beginning of these races. I'll be "toeing" the middle of the pack. [Last use of "quotes"... promise.]

Winter races are the most fun races of the year in the Midwest. Seriously... stop rolling your eyes... they are a lot of fun.

The people who show up for winter races are there for the run. They aren't training for anything. They aren't trying (in vain) to sweat off a few pounds before a beach vacation. They aren't in full makeup sporting the latest running fashions. All of those folks are on treadmills in a gym somewhere in front of TV screens wearing earbuds.

Winter racers don't care how they look. They don't care how fast they go. They're not geared up for speed, they're layered up for warmth.

If someone shows up for a race when it's really cold and really dark, they're there to run, and to be with, and to some degree commiserate with, their fellow runners. These are our peers. This is our tribe.

The start isn't crowded, and there's no dallying. As runners blow into their cupped hands and pull their hats down over their ears, the starter quickly lists the sponsors and the runners offer thanks with applause that's muffled from gloved hands. The gun is fired, and as the runners roll off, the starter hurries back inside.

Once the runners clear the few, hardy, insanely supportive spectators, it gets quiet.

These runners have been here before. They don't need the nervous release of chatter. They just run.

All you hear is the constant rumble of hundreds of footfalls. Your feet are part of that rumble, though you can't really hear them. As the pack thins and the rumble dies down. Now you can hear your steps.

Sometimes the streets are still snowy. Sometimes you need to watch for ice. Those ahead warn those behind of slick spots, just as they were warned by runners ahead of them.

Soon you forget it's cold, and you just run. And too soon, the finish line appears, flanked by volunteer timers, hunched over, trying to hide inside their coats. The finish area is, thankfully, inside, where runners wear red-cheeked smiles, and the more than occasional smidge of snot peaking out of the corner of a nostril.

The conversation returns as lips regain color and movement, and as friends find each other and compare runs. A few minutes later, you're walking back to your car.

It feels colder now. You were so warm after the run, and during the awards. Your inner layers got damp and that's chilling your skin. Hopefully, the sun has warmed the inside of your car.

Driving home, you pass house after house, knowing that the people in those houses haven't even stepped outside yet.

You've already spent time with good people, your people, out on the roads, and soon you'll warmed by a  shower, with a well-started day ahead of you.

Find a race or two this winter and see what you've been missing.

Good running,

PS - My winter race calendar is posted to the right somewhere under "Upcoming races".
PSS - Sorry about the quotes in the PS.

Image from here, which looks like a fun 5K if you find yourself in the Twin Cities in February, and here, which is a list of winter races in Albuquerque, NM.