Thoughts on Winter Running

When you live in Ottawa you can either spend a few months hibernating or you can embrace the season of winter.  When I first moved to Ottawa from southern Ontario I decided to embrace the winter months.  I started skating on the canal and took up downhill skiing.  I admit though, I thought of running as a three season sport.  I knew that like with any other activity you could “layer up”, but how on earth would you keep your feet warm wearing mesh running shoes?  Even once I started running, I really did not have any intention of continuing past November.  I figured the running shoes could be packed away and dusted off once spring arrived.

Then in 2011 I did a fall 10k training class with Running Room.  The nights became cooler, then colder, but I found I didn’t mind.  In fact I found the colder air ideal for running.  And best of all, there are no mosquitos, black flies or deer flies in winter.  So, a little nervously, I decided to do another 10k clinic starting in January.  I discovered that the body is amazing at adapting.  Do enough cold weather running and you start to find negative temperatures quite comfortable.  In fact, if those negative numbers are only single digits, you find the temperature quite balmy!

This winter I did not join a running clinic.  I have, however, managed to head out on my own (or sometimes with a friend) in every imaginable type of winter weather.  Trust me, there were days it was hard to get out there, but once I was out I never regretted it.  And those days when the sun is shining and the sky is blue…how can you beat that in the middle of the darkest time of year?

All that said, as of today I realized that I am ready to see the end of winter running.  Oddly, it has nothing to do with the runs themselves.  In fact, my 11.5k run today was beautiful at -8 degrees Celsius.  It marked the first time in a couple of months that I ran more than half my distance without wearing gloves.  The fact is, it is the “stuff” that is driving me crazy.  By stuff I mean the layers, the winter socks, the hats, earmuffs, mitts, gloves and jackets.  I started the season having a place for everything, I could easily grab all that I needed and be ready in a reasonable amount of time.  But now it is scattered, pieces of my running gear can be found in the laundry room, the bathroom, my bedroom (though not actually put away), my kids’ drawers, or my desk at work (where I think my awesome reflective gloves/mitts are sitting right now).  I started the season with three pairs of winter running socks, I am down to a pair and a half.  I’m sure the missing 3 socks will conveniently show up in July (at which point no doubt all of my summer socks will be lost).  Today it took me almost as long to find all of my stuff and get ready as it took to actually run.  Due to the amount of snowfall yesterday, I then had to go out in my boots to the car, back the car up to the area that had been plowed and put my shoes on in the car, all to avoid filling up the shoes with snow.  Yes, the other alternative would be to actually shovel a path to the driveway but we tend to avoid shoveling here.  With two kids constantly in and out we know that it is only a matter of time that a path will be beaten down so what is the point of straining our backs with a shovel?

So, do I love winter running?  Absolutely.  But does the time come when I am ready for the simplicity of throwing on a running shirt and pants and heading out the door.  Yes, and that time is here.  Bring on spring!


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