Why do you run? What started you on your journey? Can you even remember what powered you to take your first few steps?
In January, when the endeavour becomes less appealing—it takes greater effort going out in a snowstorm than it does on a beautiful day—it’s helpful to connect with your Why: what is the reason you laced up in the first place?
For me, running is a connection to my power. It transforms me from rumination to action; gets me out of my head and onto the streets and helps me feel vigorous.
All of these things still exist in bad weather. Perhaps more so. It just takes greater effort getting going.
Last night I was in my run gear for an hour before pulling the trigger. I debated whether or not to listen to music (probably a bad idea in the dark, lightless), and started doing laundry in my tights then putzed around on Instagram—how did Taylor Swift respond to the joke about her at the Golden Globes? These behaviours keep you in your negative January headspace. As does polishing off a box of Triscuits or deciding, after ten days, enough Dry January.
We all know this. And yet. Every year presents its own set of challenges. Excuses. Reasons why we can just skip tonight’s run and get after it tomorrow. Or the day after. Or whenever else we feel our momentum change.
But here’s the thing: I made it out last night and will make it out tomorrow and the very thing that makes it hard to do is the very thing that makes it worthwhile. In the summertime, maybe we want to increase our half marathon speed, increase our distance. Maybe we want to look better in our bathing suits. But in the wintertime—at night on a Wednesday in cold January—running becomes something else: for me, outdoors, it’s a flex.
Not just of muscles, but of spirit.
Last night I hit the straight away by the lake and, after a somewhat sloppy beginning—the sidewalks were crowded, it was dark, there was a nip in the air that cut through my gloves—I began to focus on my stride. I felt my back straighten. I both relaxed and tightened, and concentrated on landing on my toes. And here’s the thing: I felt awesome. Empowered. I was running in the dark as fast as I can and it shook off all the shackles that were weighing me down, my own confusion and anxiety.
When I started running thirteen years ago it was because I wanted to make a lifestyle change. We were expecting our first kid and I wanted to feel better. Healthy. Strong. Through the years, I began learning about workouts and joined a run crew—BlackToe, ignoring the ridiculous kerfuffle in Toronto—ran the marathon, then did that a bunch of times and began working on pacing and qualifying for Boston and bought enough things that, by now, cost enough money to send my now 12-year-old to college. In the wintertime, deep into my running career, my WHY has changed. I no longer care about times and bathing suits, lifestyle choices or meeting new people. Running is mental health and, in the winter, when running gets harder, it becomes viscerally more important.
Last night I made the effort to run and felt richly rewarded. You can and must do the same. It’s harder to run in the wintertime but maybe that’s the point: if you stick with your running this winter, you will feel better as you approach all the other things that you have to do.