Most Saturdays I don’t care what the temperature is at eight o’clock in the morning. Most Saturdays I am snuggled in my bed debating whether to have oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. Most Saturdays I’m not starting my half-marathon training. Last Saturday was not most Saturdays. I woke up at 7:30 to check my computer’s weather widget for the temperature and my eyelids peeled up to my scalp when I saw this:
Crap! I got dressed anyway, in my newly purchased sweat-wicking pants and sweat-wicking pullover fleece from Target. I also put on a light-weight jacket and my wool coat and stuffed my hat and mittens in my pockets. Then I drove to the running store where my training program is hosted, all the while thinking I would get my training schedule and free T-shirt and then go home because only a group of cruel-hearted bastards would make anyone run in these temperatures. Surely the leader would stand up and laugh and tell everyone that the real running would start next week because it would be completely ridiculous to run when it felt like negative nine degrees out.
When I got to the store everyone was dressed to run. Everyone. Damn it! I couldn’t punk out now or else I’d look like a big pussy. Peer pressure: not just good for making you smoke pot and get a tattoo, but also for running in sub-freezing temperatures! I checked out what everyone else was wearing, hoping I didn’t stick out like a purple cow. As I was passing the registration table I overheard this snippet of conversation, “…like I’m not already wearing eight layers…” and immediately started to freak out. Was that sarcasm? Hyperbole? I wasn’t supposed to wear eight layers, was I? I only had on two! I’d thought about putting on more, but I didn’t have any other sweat-wicking clothes and I thought I’d get laughed at if I showed up bundled like an Eskimo. I grabbed my free T-shirt off of the table and went to the restroom to put it on underneath. I now had three layers, like a fancy cake. Hopefully that would be enough.
I had signed up for the program in advance, paying my money on the day before Christmas, mostly so I wouldn’t talk myself out of it. On Saturday, I was able to walk into the store, grab a shirt and no one checked for my receipt or proof of registration. I could have just walked in off the street and then run out onto the street again with this pack of people and no one would have known. So, if you are an unethical person who is willing to rip off locally owned running stores for free T-shirts, this might be the training program for you!
All together there were about 40 people at the store, half of us running our first half. They had training schedules for beginners, intermediate, and advanced runners and for walkers. After reading the descriptions of each level, I determined I was an intermediate. No matter what your training level, everyone was running for 30 minutes that day, 15 minutes out and 15 minutes back. The store is right near the trail, so we all dashed across the parking lot and tied up traffic as we crossed the street. I love how a pack of runners or bikers can bring traffic to a stand still, whereas if I were to dash in front of a Honda Civic on my own I’d find myself hoping I’d stuck my insurance card in my pocket before leaving the house.
My nose hairs froze before we made it to the trail. There was a sprinkling of snow on the ground, like someone had spilled bags of powdered sugar everywhere. We dashed by a lake that was completely frozen. My hands were frozen too and I made a note to get thicker gloves. On the way out we ran by my apartment complex and it occurred to me that I could just run inside and go get my car later, but I continued onward.
As I settled into my pace I chatted with one of the runners who works at the store, who I shall call TriathaLisa. Her name isn’t actually Lisa, but she admitted she was one of those “fitness freaks” who does triathlons and I’m not going to use anyone’s real names unless they give me permission. As we were running we talked a bit and she said she thought she recognized me from the trail. She said this was the coldest weather she’d run in, which I found to be a huge relief since it means it probably won’t get any worse than this. All the other runs will be warm in comparison. She asked how I got into running, so I had to go through the whole, “Oh yeah, I’ve lost about 200 pounds” spiel. It has occurred to me that I’ll probably have to tell people about this for the rest of my life.
I completed the whole 30 minute run, though I went a bit faster on the way back than I intended because I was keeping pace with someone else. I was really tired the last 3 minutes, but I made it back to the store which suddenly felt like the inside of an easy-bake oven. I drank some water and talked a little with another runner. I’m going to try to introduce myself to two new people each Saturday, which are the days of our long runs. If I want to meet people I will have to talk to them and not just stare at their headbands. So, I will talk to two people a week. I can talk to two new people a week instead of just standing in the corner fondling price tags on expensive running gear.
When I was rehydrated, I reached into my pocket for my keys and they were freezing cold. But I was not frozen. I survived the cold and now I’m on my way to running my first half-marathon!