The snow runner

It's a new experience for him too.

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because you had a feeling that something was not quite right? I padded out to the kitchen at 4:00 this Sunday morning, looked out the window, and my suspicions were confirmed: it was snowing.

‘It’s just a bad dream,’ I said to myself. ‘Go back to sleep’. But when I got up again, around ten o’clock, the snow was still there. It had been forecast, which is why I had done my long run the day before instead. But I guess I had been hoping the forecast would be wrong.

If you’re Canadian or Scandinavian you’re probably used to snow and suitably equipped. You know what you can and can’t do with it. But the rest of us almost dread it – a centimetre of the stuff falls in western Europe and everything grinds to a halt. We’ve no regular experience of it so we’ve no confidence around it. This was my quandry today: should I go running, and risk a tumble on the ice?

Looking down from my window to where the road turns up the hill, where normally I see dozens of runners passing by on a Sunday morning, I saw only two today. Did they have special running shoes with some sort of grips? Is there a secret trick to running in slippery conditions? The day was bright but there was no thaw – and the fresh snow on the streets would soon freeze to the sort of ice that takes pleasure in upending mild-weather folk like me. On the other hand, with the cold weather set to last a week, the thought of a long disruption to my Paris Marathon training was hard to bear.

Nothing for it, then, but to summon up the spirit of the legendary Antarctic explorers of old. As they probably did when huddled in their South Pole tent, I reminded myself of the greater glory of my mission, put on a second pair of socks – and out I went.

My plan was simple – aim for the fresh snow, where I could get a grip. Stretches of bare tarmac looked reassuring and inviting, but I had to take care for black ice. A lot of the snow on the pavements had already been churned up by walkers and was freezing treacherously.

With pleasing serendipity, my task was made easier by the Chi Running techniques I had learned only a weekend before. A stable core; short strides; foot landing flat under the body, then lifting rather than launching – this was all ideal to get me around on the snow. Concentrating on the task in hand helped me to relax my body. One wonders how the Eskimos aren’t up there with the Kenyans in winning races.

Anyway, I survived. There was a lot of ice around, so I wasn’t too adventurous today – just three miles, but I earned them. During the week I’ll go to the local track instead – unless it’s closed because of the weather.

So, next time I’m in mild, rainy Ireland I’ll impress everyone with my tale of how I trained in the snow and ice. But I probably won’t tell that story if I’m ever in Montreal or Oslo.

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