It begins with a deep, intense struggle.
It’s Saturday morning, and I’m lying in bed. The sun has not yet risen, as it’s the middle of winter and the majority of the day will be shrouded in darkness. I’m warm, I’m comfortable and I just finished a grueling week at work. The last thing I want to do is get out of bed and go outside.
Slowly, I will my limbs to move. First, I stick my arm outside the blanket. The air is bitterly cold, but I fight the urge to burrow deeper into my cocoon.
Next, a leg follows suit and firmly plants itself on the floor – which, of course, is also freezing. I take a few deep breaths, curse myself for taking up running and launch out of bed without upsetting either my sleeping husband or curled up cat.
From this point, I’m pretty much on autopilot. Coffee, a light breakfast and a first glass of water wake me up as I throw on my three layers of gear and braid my hair under an insulated toque. Thermal socks, running shoes and ice cleats follow, and before I know it I’m ready to take those first few steps out the door…
Running outside – whether its during summer, winter or somewhere in between – carries with it an intense love/hate relationship for anyone who attempts it. If someone tells you they have nothing but good experiences during every single outdoor run, they’re flat out lying to you.
No, running outside is definitely not for the climate-controlled enthusiast. Nor is it recommended for anyone who wants an “easy” workout. Running outside is serious business and can deflate the tires of even the most skilled treadmill junkies.
When I first took up running – on a lovely, clear, crisp spring morning – I vowed that I would run outdoors in only the best conditions. If it rained, I’d give my treadmill a workout. Chilly days would be a perfect excuse to catch up on some indoor television-watching while clocking the miles. And winter running – forget it! There was no way you’d see me running down the street in -20-with-a-windchill weather. Absolutely not.
That mentality lasted for a few months… until I experienced my first real “runner’s high.” I had just broken the 5k mark for the first time, and my brain exploded. Suddenly, everything was wonderful. The grass seemed a little greener; the sky a little bluer. I was invincible. I was awesome.
I. Was. Finally. A. Runner.
Once you’ve experienced that feeling, there’s no going back. And after I broke through that invisible barrier, I started to really notice my surroundings during each run.
I’d marvel at the landscaping of a neighbour’s yard, or take note of the houses for sale down neighbouring streets. I’d also notice other runners, and give a wave, a salute or a half-smile as I continued along my route. It was as if the world suddenly became alive in front of my eyes, and I was now a part of it in a way that I never had been before.
To someone who isn’t a runner, or doesn’t like the outdoors, this might sound crazy. But trust me, it’s real and something I can’t give up just because it’s a bit chilly outside. Running outside makes me feel alive, free and happy. It’s truly something wonderful.
Don’t get me wrong – the struggle is always there. And it’s compounded when I’m heading out into darkness and wind instead of sunshine and birds singing. But I still force myself to get up, get dressed and get moving because the happiness I feel once I warm up and shake off the sleepiness is always worth it.
Just call me the winter running ninja.