running

Why We Run: Footprints

If I were to let the snow get under my skin, metaphorically speaking, I would quickly grow fat, lazy, and boring in this winter city where the frost holds dominion for nearly half of the year.

Cold — brutal, toe-freezing, shivering cold — is my reality for at least two months each year. Those two months are fringed and spastically punctuated with just a lingering, discomforting cold, but for two months furnaces blast a hovel of safe warmth through the wood and insulation of my small prairie home just to maintain a glimmer of protection against the deadly outside.

I do have a personal rule about just how much cold I will realistically tolerate. It is a gut instinct really, though calculated based on time of day, length of run, strength of wind, trail conditions, precipitation (usually frozen), just how far into the season we are and how much my tolerance has been leveled, my overall mood, and if there is anything good on Netflix.

That means if something falls outside the comfort of these rules, I hide in my house. If it doesn’t? I make footprints in the snow.

It has been many years since any deep or abiding fascination with true path-finding through my city clung to my conscious purpose in running these trails. My early running career was one of seeking new routes, entering unfamiliar trail-heads, and breaking with the known with a careful expectation of adventure. Curiosity drove me to reveal many paths.

The unfamiliar quickly mingled with the everyday. After a couple years, finding new paths became a rarity mixed among the plodding necessity of race-training.

Fresh snow changes that.

Trails, routes, paths are all trampled with a quantitative measure of feets. The more prints, the more common the path. The more prints, the more people have already found a particular route through the wilds of the city.

Untrod branches in the path beckon. No prints tempt of the allure of something less common. Perhaps we are not the first to go this way. It is unlikely, in fact… but there are few enough that to break through a fresh snowfall on a trail feels closer to exploring than just plodding along in the cold for mere mileage.