This is the time of year when many of us runners are frankly just trying to eke out a run whenever we can. Between gift-shopping, card-mailing, house-decorating, dessert-baking, travel-planning, and, oh yeah, all the day-to-day stuff that still needs tending, our running shoes can rapidly take on such a wistful, lonely look that we may as well hang a sprig of mistletoe over them.
And did I mention fewer hours of daylight? Talk about runner humbug!
There’s one thing, though, that keeps me from saying “Forget it!” and just cruising, doing little eggnog-fueled token runs from now until the return of Daylight Time. Actually two things: a half-marathon in January, and a full marathon in April.
I seem to have a happy-go-lucky mental block when it comes to registering for wintertime or early spring races. I always forget that I don’t like training in cold darkness. My happy-go-lucky Registration Self says “Let’s run this race! It’s fun! We’ve set a PR on that course before! Do it! Do it!” And my Realistic Self, blinded by all that optimism, says “Hmm…okay! Yeah! Let’s do it!”
Enter a time called “now,” when my post-work routine consists of driving home as fast as legally possible, throwing on approximately whatever running clothes my hands touch first, twisting up something that might pass for a ponytail, and hurling myself out the door for the daily battle that sounds cooler than it is: Me vs. The Darkness. I also face the lesser skirmishes of: Me vs. Second-guessing my judgment of how many layers I needed, and Me vs. My runny nose.
I don’t know about you, but just writing about it makes me want to swap my big comfy sweatshirt for a running jacket and painter gloves…oh I can’t even write that with a straight face.
So why do it? Why go around humming “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Training” instead of simply running a holiday 5k wearing a Santa hat and jingle bells (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I admit to having a leopard-print Santa hat in my closet) and calling it a season?
I get the answer during each and every one of my weekday runs. They’re mostly out-and-backs, and every time I reach the turnaround – usually faster than necessary due to fretting about the impending darkness – my attention is seized, almost physically, by the sunset. New Mexico is blessed with consistently gorgeous ones, and they always hold my gaze (and my stride) for at least a few beats.
The sunsets seem to say “Relax. You might be cold and stressed out and tired, but look at the beauty of what’s right in front of you, with vibrant colors virtually reaching out to touch you: the horizon.”
The beauty of the horizon!
That’s what winter training is for: to prepare for what lies on the horizon and beyond. To give back to those vibrant colors with some vibrance of our own.
If you’re training for a race right now, I raise a tall glass of eggnog to you. But you have to find your own Santa hat.
Photo Credit: http://www.landintheusa.com