Winter has begun and the days will now start getting longer! Yeah!
For those folks living and running in the really wintry areas – my hat is off to you.
Here on the high plains several miles from the nearest town and about a mile from the nearest other human, there are endless roads for running. I’m on a rare hill and can see for miles. It’s not exactly a hot bed of running activity. In 9 years I have seen no one else running the local roads. Ever. When I first moved here and started walking and occasionally jogging, anyone driving by (and they were rare) would stop and ask me if I needed a ride. Perhaps I looked like I was in deep distress. These days, the ‘neighborhood’ seems to have become used to the sight of me toiling around the countryside. When they pull alongside me now, they ask how far I am going today.
On a busy day I may see 5 cars on the roads in the course of 2 hours running. In some places on my route, the nearest house/tree/building/abandoned car/grain silo/barn – in short, any sort of shelter – can be a mile or more away.
I love not running on city streets or dealing with metro traffic. I love it when I pass a field and the yearling cattle kick up their heels and race along beside the fence. I love the sharp fresh air and ringing silence. There are some challenges.
Out here the wind blows most of the time and especially in winter and spring. There is not a lot of shelter. There aren’t many people driving around who might notice if you are in difficulty.
One of the things I value on par with socks which will not blister my feet is an accurate weather forecast. For long runs I want an idea of what to expect for the next two or three hours. Living in an agricultural community and working outside year round, I have become deeply attuned to the weather and the seasons. I have learned to recognize the storm fronts and squall lines written in the clouds. But storms can blow up fast out here.
The long runs make me nervous. Once committed to my 10 mile loop, there is no shortcut home if a storm moves in. At the farthest point I may be running pretty slow. No one out here would begrudge me sheltering in their barn or even house if they were home. Anyone would give me a ride home – if they were around. They may not be.
One day a couple of years ago, I went for an out and back 4 mile run. It had snowed about 6 inches the day before but the road was mostly clear. It was sunny and felt warm at about 36 degrees. I started out heading south. At two miles I turned around and headed home – and noticed a wind had started from the northwest. With a mile to go, the wind had dragged long narrow fingers of snow completely across the road and was making my eyes water – the water freezing on my face. At half a mile to go clouds were piling up and I had to walk into the wind with my head down. I got in and noticed the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees in not quite an hour.
Since then, long runs make me nervous.