September is gone and October is suddenly here. The days have gotten manifestly shorter and slightly cooler and I’ve been eyeing my winter running gear with a little suspicion and loathing, not looking forward to the day when donning and shucking the gear needed to run 5k takes longer than the run itself. Waking up in the dark has started to take its toll on my cheerfulness and resilience, too, reminding me of the imminence of seasonal attitude and energy downs-wings.
I am not a creature of the dark. and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to not only survive the winter, but to venture out into it.
But that’s what makes the difference, you see, venturing out. It can’t be the effect of sunlight on skin, since I’m normally swathed in layers of wool, silk, spandex and Gortex. I can only guess that it must be the effect of sun in the eyes, coupled with endorphins and the same sense of purpose that the Jesuit missionaries got when heading into hostile territories. Running in winter in the snowy parts of Canada (and Vancouver, I’m NOT talking about YOU) requires zeal and determination, along with the right gear and some good friends. If you do manage it, though, it counteracts the effects of darkness. Even running in the dark (and we do a lot of that) makes the world brighter.
When you run outside in winter, you become attuned to exactly how long a day is. Running certain familiar routes demonstrates concretely that the days not only get shorter, as you hit those mile markers in progressive darkness, but also shorter, as the days lengthen in the depths of winter. When the first tiny glimpses of spring show up, you see them and feel them. Runners are among the first to divest themselves of layers of clothing when the thermometer girds its loins for the great leap over zero (Celsius). You notice the sudden appearance of random patches of grass long before everyone else and dash off-trail to succumb to the hydraulic pressures induced by spring stream songs before anyone else notices the snowbanks diminishing.
And suddenly, just as suddenly as it was winter, it’s spring. And time for hillwork……