Everyone in Boston training for the Boston Marathon was given a gift last year – we had an absurdly mild winter. It was never too cold and I only ran in the snow once. Of course, that gift turned around and slapped us in the face on race day when the temperatures were in the mid 90’s. But anyway…
The past few days in Boston have been much more like the Boston winter you’d expect. You know, brutally cold, nasty wind, all that good stuff. Yesterday as I was driving to work, my car informed me it was 6 degrees out. 6 degrees is really cold. I was surprised by the number of runners I saw out while commuting in. None of them looked particularly thrilled to be out running. This morning, during a veritable heat wave at 13 degrees, I saw a man in his fifties plodding along by the reservoir in just shorts and a cotton t-shirt. Which got me wondering, why? Allow me to preface all of this by saying, I generally like running in the cold. Many of the races I’ve run in the winter have yielded better results than their nicer weather counterparts. While I’m not the biggest fan of spandex, it gets the job done and I own more cold weather running gear than regular gear.
After going to the gym yesterday and making a hot dinner, I threw on flannel pants, a hooded sweatshirt, and cocooned myself in a blanket to do some research before reading and going to bed. I wanted to see if there were any real negative side effects to running in intense cold. It turns out that running in the cold has the same effect as running in good weather. You burn calories. Your metabolism kicks into gear. You build up endurance. The list goes on and on. The only adverse effects are in cruelly freezing temperatures, we’re talking negative 40 degrees when frostbite can occur and a persistent cough can develop.
When running in the cold, taking proper precautions is always best – prevention being the best medicine and whatnot. Unlike the fifty something Clydesdale I saw this morning, wear layers, wear a hat, protect your extremities. Do everything your mother and grandmother told you to do when walking to the bus stop on your way to school in the morning. But, this doesn’t cover the ‘why?’.
I’ve often said I see more people running in adverse conditions than on a nice day. I believe a bit of this is rooted in athletic narcissism. Going out in the rain, the snow, the extreme cold, people will drive by and look at that person and think they are crazy. And as the car drives past the runner thinks, yeah, I’m crazy, but check me out, I’m a badass. Maybe that’s what my middle aged friend was up to this morning. I once scrutinized people who ran in the rain as being in this category. And to an extent, I believe some runners still do for that ‘look at me’ purpose. I will say, though, there have been hot, humid days when I’ve went running and prayed for a passing shower to cool me down. Or on repulsively hot days when I normally wouldn’t have run, if some rain happens to fall, I may quickly gear up to get a run in. Last year, when we were training in that mild winter, there was a New Balance ad proclaiming ‘Excellent Trained All Winter’ that we idolized. This ad was targeted at those training for the Boston Marathon, and it resonated with us. It does not this year because I am not training for anything big.
This isn’t a grandiose ‘aha’ moment. It’s pretty simple. Why? If you have a purpose you know why. It’s perception. If you have a goal and you’re dedicated to it, you’ll do whatever you can to attain it. Even if that means training in 6 degree weather. Because that’s what you need to do.
To anyone running yesterday, today, or on any of these future freezing days, if you have a reason, go after it. If you’re out there thinking about what the guy in a beat up and aging Audi A4 is thinking about you as he’s on his way to work, go home, you are just crazy.