On the first day of fall, I thought about winter, and how I get to experience a different type of winter this year. I'm curious to see if I can stay off the treadmill this year. Dreadmills were often the only option. I wrote this during my Midwestern training last winter.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. - Max Ehrmann
I detest winter. When I was a kid, it was okay. Growing up in Minnesota, I only knew what I knew. We had seasons, bad weather makes you thankful for the good, and add some nonsense about weather making us hardy. I do actually feel like a jerk when I complain about being cold and think about ancestors living in sod houses. Poor me, in my house with a furnace, having to put on an extra sweatshirt and stocking cap or wrap up in my Wookiee snuggie to stay warm. I bet the sod house folks would have loved my Wookiee snuggie, I can almost hear Jane:
"Cletus, this is so much softer than the straw we've been laying on!" Not accustomed to so much flowing fabric, she almost tripped over one of the young ones.
"Shut up, woman, straw was good enough for Jesus," as he leaned into the fire, snot frozen from his nose.
Or something like that. That probably happened yesterday in Appalachia.
The point here is my dislike of freezing, gray season. I make lots of progress for seven or eight months and then winter smashes me back. It depresses me and makes me want to crawl into a cozy cave under a pile of quilts with Alli and Joey where we tell stories, cuddle, and hide until the sun and above freezing temperatures came back. The worst part of it?
The lack of outdoor running with the Bitches.
Please, and I am begging you, don't write me a message with a list of all the cold weather gear I should invest in to make outdoor running enjoyable in -4 degrees. Don't tell me which shoes to buy or how to put screws in my shoes for better traction on the icy spots. I don't care. Really, I don't. I am so glad that so many of you enjoy cold weather running. Go you. I've decided that temps under 20 are basically ridiculous and temps under 0 are a nightmare. Then add wind and ice.
Snow CAN be pretty, but I'm confident that anyone talking about the magical snowfall is also not responsible for snow removal at his or her residence. The first six or eight inches are like, "Fine, this is good exercise," but the 12+ inches in 24 hours leaves me cursing under my breath as I rage scoop while the mouthbreathers up the block stare in awe that a woman can do more than grow babies. And during these fits of shovel rage, I can't help but wonder why I live somewhere where the thing that makes me feel the most right--leashing up the Bitches, throwing on a pair of sneakers, and going to church--is something I can't enjoy all year long.
I signed up for the Pittsburgh Marathon this year to motivate me to run more in the winter and spring. Every other marathon I've completed has been in September or October. Pittsburgh is May 1. Since it's sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods, this really is #runfordick part two. Since I don't trust the myself on the ice running with the Bitches, we're relegated to short walks in the sub-zero temps and longer walks when the temps are a bit milder. The running?
I am learning to love it. Audiobooks and podcasts help. Varying workouts helps--switching up the inclines and speeds. But sometimes, I just gotta go in and pound out the miles. It's well-documented that I am no speedster. Any pace between 9:30 and 10:00 is super cool by me, so a solid 6.0 on the dreadmill with a 2.0 incline gets the job done. What's been really fascinating about learning to love the treadmill is watching other people on them. Watching a strong runner on a treadmill is pretty cool and mechanically interesting to me. The foot strike, the posture, the stride. I try to see what I can emulate in those runners.
The rest of us are kind of a shit show.
The ones who barely try and could not look less interested in working out.
The women who come in twosomes to speed walk and gossip.
Guys who run with their hoodies up. "Adrian!"
The couples who never leave each other's side and surely have joint Facebook accounts. The ones who don't wipe down the equipment when they're done.
(Sidenote: You f*ckers that don't wipe down equipment when you're finished are disgusting. You are probably anti-vaxxers and growing a measles-polio hybrid in your basement. I repeat: YOU ARE GROSS.)
The ones who have the incline too steep or the speed too fast and are actually holding on to the machine for dear life.
I ended up in an unplanned competition with a hanger on-er yesterday. Five miles was the plan with the incline varied 1.5 to 2.5 and the 6.0 pace. I was in a couple miles and listening to Amy Poehler's Yes, Please. I hopped to the sides for a second to wipe sweat and take a swig of water when he appeared.
He was an unassuming-looking, middle-aged man. While there were a great many options for open treadmills, he selected the one directly to the right of me and began staring at my treadmill screen. His man brain must have computed that he could keep up with my lady parts. (Remember, I'm not fast.)
He held on for dear life.
He kept looking over at my screen and I remembered a comment one of the girls I ran with back in 2010 made: "You aren't fast, but you can go forever."
Part of me wanted to just hop to the side for a second and tell him all that. I wanted to tell him that the best part of running is learning to stay in your lane. It's never been about anybody else. My jog is someone's run and my run is someone's walk. And that's okay.
When I hopped to the side to grab a drink at the four mile mark, I glanced at his screen. He was still hanging with everything he had, but he'd cranked the speed back to 4.5. Since he still looked like he may have needed an inhaler, I was relieved when he stopped at one mile. I also hope he keeps coming back to the treadmill shit show. Lots of people didn't even try on Tuesday and all of us felt fat, slow, or stupid at some point while working to get in shape. I don't know this guy, but I know he can figure out the secret: The only competition is with yourself.