An Ode to Winter Running

July 29, 2011

I’m not much of a hot weather person. And actually I’d very much rather be a bit on the cool side, a couple of degrees below that standard definition of whatever room temperature happens to be. A little bit of chill in the air is just perfect for me.

But the problem is that I live in a climate that has quite a bit of seasonal temperature fluctuation. At the extremes we dip to the bone-chilling, skin-numbing cold of the mid-minus fourties Celsius in the heart of winter — and then into days of blurring, sweating, sweltering hot with temperatures in the high thirties or occasional low fourties (Celsius again) in the peaks of summer.

I have a rule that I generally follow when I run: the fifteen at fifteen. I take the outside, ambient temperature and add fifteen degrees. The resulting number is an approximation of what my personal temperature feels like after about fifteen minutes of running (though, these days, fifteen minutes is barely a warm-up.) So, as an example: when it is a pleasant ten degrees Celsius outside and I run, then after fifteen minutes it feels like about twenty-five degrees — or just cozy and a bit on the warm side. When it is -20C outside, and sinking towards the lower limits of where I usually stop having fun with running shoes on, then fifteen minutes into things it feels like five below zero: chilly, but pleasantly and even refreshingly so. Now, if you’re still following with the math, when the outside temperature is thirty degrees Celsius (such as it’s been on and off for a few weeks now) then on a summer, Sunday morning, the sun beating down and all that, and we start our long (often ninety-minute-plus) runs you can probably guess where I’m going with this: fifteen minutes into, things suddenly feel like a sweltering forty-five Celsius in the sun. For those still thinking in that other temperature scale, that’s about 115 Fahrenheit. In the sun. Running. For someone who does not like heat.

I tend to get a little punchy.

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It is in those heat-stroke-inducing moments of delirium that I dream wishfully of gloved fingers huddled together and wrapped inside my palms for warmth in those first few minutes of a bitterly cold run. It is in those sweat-pouring-from-my-brow moments that I long for the brisk winter air washing over the few square centimeters of exposed forehead peaking from out from between my toque and scarf. It is in those foot-sweating, toe-chafing, blister-inducing moments that I recall the sweet sounds of fresh snow crunching under my feet. I dream of winter. In my mind I sing odes to winter. I curse the summer heat, shake my fist at the sun-heated-asphalt, and take another weary step closer to shade.

And then swear to never run another step in this heat. I swear it every single time, but then a few days later… repeat.

I should run more in the summer. The streets are clear. The grass is green. The flowers fill the air with pleasant aromas that wash over our faces as we trod on by. I really should run more, but my biggest excuse is the hot. Just the hot. Hot. I hate the hot. I loathe the hot. And on those days filled with so many too-hot-to-be-alive moments, I hide in my cool basement trying to forget the guilt of not sweating on the hot streets, and maybe even counting the days until the leaves start to change and the frost… well, I’ll shut up now.