(Why do it?)
(Run in the middle of a snowstorm only to be covered in snow.)
You mean the end result, the “Abominable Snow Jew” as my children refer to me upon my return home?
(So, it’s just a gimmick?)
No, it’s more; much more.
With less than 200 days until the Ironman, I could take a day off from training, but there is value in winter training.
Running in snow is like running on the soft sands of the beach. The shifting surface forces me to pay attention to each and every motion of my body. How my foot lands, how I push off as my gastrocnemius, solis and gluteal muscles spring me forward.
Being more aware of each movement makes me focus on my form. It causes my muscles to work harder and build strength.
(You are going to be sore the next day.)
A runner’s badge of honor.
(That he will tell every coworker he sees in the office.)
Running at night creates an added dimension to training: safety. While I wear a reflective jacket, I also have rechargeable lamps that I wear on my sneakers.
(How much light can these “lamps” provide?)
My shul rabbi’s wife said that her family enjoyed watching me run past their house with my “flashlight sneakers.”
(A gift from friends concerned with your night running.)
For safety’s sake I only run on the quiet streets of my neighborhood. With each loop my footprints vanish in the new falling snow. A reminder from the storm that for this evening, the snow will claim and reclaim all that it touches. Parked cars, trash cans, even telephone poles become blanketed in snow and slowly absorbed into the pale landscape.
(What happens when the snow gets too high?)
The snowplows create a path for me. I wind up doing repeated loops in their tracks.
There is more.
More. There is the “emotional vacation” I take.
For a few hours, I’m alone; all alone like the last surviving man on earth.
Or an astronaut on the moon.
The only sound I hear is the crunch every time my sneakers—
Running shoes press down into the fresh frozen precipitation.
Soon my mind wanders and the rhythmic “crunching” of my feet fades away. Only the silence fills my ears. The physical manifestation of stepping on a bed of fresh snow slows down time like a break-dancer doing the moonwalk.
I liken the experience to running in a snow globe; flakes swirling around me, cascading in the lamp light creating an angel’s halos around lamp posts. I feel the falling snow kissing my eyelashes. I feel the heavy flakes blanket my head in a hat of snow, covering my goatee until I look 100 years old, with icicles clinging to my beard. Yet, I never notice it pile up on my eyebrows making me look like I have bleached them white.
I become the figurine in the snow globe.
Running in a snowstorm also opens a portal to a past long gone.
If I want to go back in time, this experience teleports me there. I cease to feel the cold or the wind. My body moves forward, but my mind is years away.
For a brief moment, I am connected to another time when I was covered in snow.
I stop being a 52-year-old runner. I am 17-year-old high school junior. I am going house to house, shoveling the snow from people driveways. I have only been playing guitar for a year and I need money to buy my first electric guitar.
My teenage mind only cares about being on time for the morning school bus and the next high-school exam.
My grandparents are alive and well, but this memory is running out of time like the hourglass the Wicked Witch gave Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.” I have no way to know that these sands will run out in 24 months.
I can’t go back and tell my grandparents my thoughts or ask them their recollections.
But for a moment, I can still feel my grandfather’s firm handshake as I look into his blue eyes. The hair on his temples, white as snow, making the blue that much brighter.
I can hear my grandmother’s big-hearted laugh in response to my jokes.
Any visit from my grandparents would result in Grandma taking over our kitchen and I can smell the bread crumb coated fish she would deep fry in Crisco. As long as I keep moving, my grandparents are not gone.
Somewhere along a two and a half hour, 13-mile run in a snowstorm, a tear or two will trail down my cheek and blend into the snow that covers my face.
You can shake a snow globe with all of your might, but at some point, the fantasy snow will settle and you will be looking at a clear picture of your reality.
David Roher is a USAT certified triathlon and marathon coach. He is a multi-Ironman finisher and veteran special education teacher. He is on Instagram @David Roher140.6.
He can be reached at [email protected]