I have definitely been feeling defeated and hopeless about my marathon training this winter and I know I’m not alone. This has been an intensely cold and snowy winter for all runners in Minnesota (and beyond) and I’ve consistently felt the mood drop on runs and noticed a lot of people saying how out of shape they feel and how they are not expecting much from their spring marathons. I am not to be excluded from this list and likely am one of the top complainers! I am reeeaaally tired of running in harsh conditions (consistently with snow or wind chills between 0 and -30 since early December), and I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on my spring marathon, which I had been so excited to sign up for a few months ago. I’d begun to tell myself, maybe I just don’t like running anymore, and maybe training for back to back marathons is not for me while looking up the options for reducing my race to the half marathon distance. However, like in the rest of life, conditions are not always ideal. Usually there is something to be learned.
The following is what winter training in Minneapolis has taught me this year.
1. Runners are dedicated, if not just plain stubborn, individuals.
At the beginning of the winter (before January) I was right up there with the most dedicated. I never missed runs even in the cold and loved the opportunity to show my dedication. Once January hit I just lost my drive, opted for the treadmill many times, and skipped workouts if the weather was unexpectedly bad and I hadn’t planned ahead for an indoor run. However, many of my running friends continue to show up for every run, training for their early spring marathons, and even more amazingly, even when they aren’t currently in training. It could totally just be stubbornness, but many do this without complaint, which is really inspiring!
2. It’s okay to give yourself permission to not be the most hardcore runner.
Even though it’s nice to be dedicated, let’s face it, we can be a little obsessive when it comes to mileage and training perfectly according to plan each week. And who are we trying to be so perfect for? Yes, it would be nice to get that PR or BQ, but frostbite and hypothermia are not worth that perfect next best time. I think we can all pat ourselves on the back for running outside at all this winter and try to let go of those perfectionist expectations for one terribly cold season.
3. Weather tolerance is relative.
There have been many times this winter when I contemplated with friends whether to run outside or not. Normally I heard from one person who thought it was crazy to even think about going outside to run, and then another who thought it crazy or wimpy to consider not running. For the same day’s weather. What I’ve learned is that you just need to figure out what your own personal tolerance level is and come to terms with it. There will always be people with higher or lower tolerance levels when it comes to frigid temps.
4. The plan you had in mind is not always best.
Inclement weather gives us an opportunity to reconsider our weekly routine and allows us to incorporate other activities we might not have tried if we had been out hitting the trails as usual. Getting an unexpected break can allow us extra time to finish up something we’ve been meaning to do, catch up with friends, or do another form of exercise or activity we wouldn’t normally try. Wonderful things can pop up when life isn’t so planned out, and doing something different can be just as fun as running. Really!
5. I have the privilege of running with really amazing women.
This is probably the most valuable realization, and definitely saved the best for last! My women running friends are not only dedicated and really tough, beautiful athletes, they also really care and support one another. Want to run when the air temperature is -7 and wind chill is -20? They’ll be there. 7 miles of hill repeats at 0 degrees? You will be able to hear shouts of encouragement as they pass one another. Need to run in the morning instead of at the regular club time? There will be volunteers to join you. Need extra Kleenex or energy gel during those long runs? They’ve got you covered. Running has allowed me to develop relationships with women that I know will support me even in the roughest of conditions and for that I am truly grateful. I’m not sure I would have appreciated these ladies quite as much without the extremely harsh conditions we’ve run through this year!
Let me know some of the things running (or just being out and about) this winter has taught you!