Monday, January 25, 2016

Crazy Winter Runs

With the East coast digging out from their weekend blizzard -- and I hope everyone reading and their families are OK -- I started thinking about some of the crazy winter weather I've run in over the years. In the first few years I was running I was a bit "crazier" than I am now, of course, having a better schedule and access to indoor facilities have helped too, but before saner ideas prevailed, I was up for pretty much anything.

So here are a few that come to mind:

* On February 1-2, 2011, we had a blizzard in Aurora that dropped 17-18 inches of snow. 

In the Midwest, especially northern Illinois, we usually get hit with a storm that drops a foot or more of snow every couple of years, so getting a big storm like that one isn't all totally uncommon.

Still, I remember this storm because it was the only blizzard that scared the crap out of me! I was living alone in an old apartment building and despite a pile of movies, and, I must admit, a night of drinking, the wind and the noise was kind of creepy.

What made it worse is that I lived a couple of miles from a decent sized rail yard and all night I could hear were the lonely calls of train whistles piercing the cold night air. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night.

When I awoke I was greeted to a pretty impressive winter wonderland. I went out to see what was going on and coming down the street there were a bunch of guys from the Aurora University cross country and track team getting in a run.

So I figured, hey, if it was good enough for them it's good enough for me! After the storm moved through the temperature dropped to near zero, but I bundled up and got a 4-miler in. Thanks for the incentive, guys!

*I've run several times when the temperature has been below zero (F), but one day in 2003 really turned some heads. When my kids were young and I was working two jobs, I spent several years doing most of my runs during lunchtime at work.

I think for the most part my co-workers had come to see it as a normal thing. When people were coming in and out of the building, it wasn't strange to see me doing the same in my running clothes. While I got some occasional strange looks or comments, most people are very supportive, and many people who have known me a long time ask me, "So what marathon are you training for now?"

I've never minded running in the cold, but it has always been the wind that has bothered me. On the days where I have run in extreme temps, it's usually when the wind is down so it's not a big deal.

Anyway, one day we were in the middle of a cold snap and by noon the temperature stood at minus-3F, and it was snowing! But since I was deep into Los Angeles Marathon training, I needed to run. It wasn't windy at lunch so I layered up and headed out.

I'm pretty sure I got strange looks not just from my co-workers, but from everyone I encountered outside as well, given the number of cars that slowed down to stare at me! The run went well, I stayed really warm and the snow was beautiful, leaving just enough of a dusting where I could see my footprints.

I think in my co-workers eyes I crossed the line of crazy that day.

*But like many runners, I totally embrace my inner crazy. One day I came home from work and it was snowing pretty hard, and not the sweet, puffy flakes, but the nasty, heavy ones. I had a 5-miler on my schedule that day, so I was determined to get it in.

There was about five inches on the ground and the plows hadn't done the side streets yet so I knew I'd be slogging it a little bit. One thing about snow events like that one is that the temperature hangs around 30 degrees and the wind doesn't blow at all -- the snow just falls straight down and keeps coming.

I got dressed to run and went outside, but realized I'd be way too warm in running pants, so I went back in and changed into my shorts! Needless to say I was quite the sight, running in thick, heavy know in shorts. Picture that one if you can!

*One thing I'm proud of, though, is that my crazy has been passed on to my kids. One Saturday night in December, 2013, I had the boys for the weekend and Matt -- who was getting ready for his senior track season -- was a bit bored and decided to go for a run.

An hour, and an estimated seven miles later, Matt returned looking like this! I'm so proud.

So how about you? What's one of your craziest winter runs?

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