Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Running Against the Wind

by Matt Gray

When the thermometer rests between 35 and 55 degrees, it's the perfect temperature to go for a run: not-so-cold that your lungs burn, and not-so-hot that you're drenched in sweat. These Goldie Lox running days are relatively rare, even if you strategically plan your time and only run when the mercury hits that perfect threshold. You must get outside often, and often in less-than-ideal conditions.

Late last fall, I'd been waiting for that arctic cold snap to break and for the sun to come out and melt some of the ice. Finally, after almost ten days without running, my criteria were met.

I laced up my road/trail hybrids and hit a route in the northwest suburbs that traveled a mix of dirt paths, canyon trails, and meandering tract-home streets. I circumnavigated a lake, crossed a ravine, and came up over a rise to an incredible view of the the Front Range, and a fierce wind ripping over the Divide. 

I contemplated turning back to the safety of home, but I'd only covered a little under 2 miles and I was eager to push for a longer day. I ran against the wind for another two miles until I was able to make a right turn.  While the side wind was less difficult to manage, I looked down on a couple occasions to see my legs landing not directly below me, but slightly to the right. I estimated that the gusts were hitting me at 30 to 35 miles per hour.  Strong, cold, and unrelenting.
Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
Gypsy Sun & Rainbows

Led Zeppelin
Zeppelin in my mind
I turned up the tunes on my i-pod to focus on something other than the pain as the wind tore at my skin and pierced my ears. But the roar drowned out even the loudest of Jimi Hendrix solos and Led Zeppelin riffs. Now five miles from home, I had no other choice than to work with the elements. I gave into the wind and let my body and my mind ride the gusts, the discomfort, and the exhilaration.

Reminded of Garuda Running
On the backside of the loop, I relished in the few miles when the wind came from behind, and was broken up by some of the low rolling hills.  It was in these moments that I took stock of the situation and realized how wonderful I felt. It was far better to be out moving and breathing in these conditions than the groggy days I spent hiding behind my computer waiting for the weather to change.

So if running continues to serve as an inexhaustible metaphor for life, learning to hit the trail on a less-than-perfect day is a lesson in overcoming challenges and facing adversity head-on. Running against the wind is what reminds us how great it is to be alive.
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