Bless this crappy run

It is really easy to write about the run that felt amazing or the run that looked beautiful. it’s even easier to write about the workout that was so difficult it made me want to quit every other minute. I end those runs teeming with endorphins, thoughts, pride and serenity. Sometimes I forget that when nearly every run gives me all those things, I am actually spoiled as hell.

Right now, running is garbage and I wish there were anything I could substitute for it.

I don’t give a shit how cold it is; I have the clothing to bundle up for anything down to zero degrees, before you factor in the windchill. I don’t care about the dark, either: have you seen my slick flashing light vest? It’s so cool that when I ran to day care to pick up my daughter yesterday, I knelt on the ground to give her a hug and was instantly beset by a swarm of toddlers, who all patiently waited for a turn to push the buttons and make the colors change. Between that, my knuckle lights that throw off a beam that reaches half a block, and my police-issue wrist alarm, I feel like I can run anytime and anywhere.

This is about as ideal as it gets for a snowy run. Somerville takes good care of its community path!

This is about as ideal as it gets for a snowy run. Somerville takes good care of its community path!

There is just no gear that can really equip you for running on city sidewalks in the days following a snowstorm. The problem is that Cambridge, Somerville and Boston are, if anything, too good at snow removal. Main roads are plowed, salted, and sanded to the point where the asphalt is totally exposed. Yay, right? Some patches of sidewalk - chiefly the ones that the city itself is responsible for - are similarly cleared. In residential neighborhoods, you have no idea what you’re going to get; homeowners are responsible for shoveling the sidewalk on their property, but I guess there’s no law that says they have to do a halfway decent job of it. In front of one house, you may be touching down on cleared concrete, while in front of the next one you might need crampons to get past it without falling on your ass. And let’s not even talk about the street corners. So if you’re wearing Yak Trax or whatever variety of spikes you please, you’re in great shape on that icy messy stuff (with a little practice). But then as soon as you hit a stretch of that gorgeous, too-good-to-be-true city sidewalk where they really got serious with the salt, your spikes are going to make contact with that pavement and it’s going to make your ears curdle and your teeth hurt. On top of which it could also ruin your gear.

First Yak Trax run of the year! Alas, the novelty has since worn off.

First Yak Trax run of the year! Alas, the novelty has since worn off.

So this has been me running outdoors for the last three days: bundle up, wear spikes. Seek out places that I know won’t be cleared but WILL be at least plowed or shoveled. Run as far as I can until I hit a patch of exposed pavement, and eyeball it to try and see how far ahead the snow cover resumes. Decide to take spikes off. Run for 2.5 minutes before encountering ice. Try a couple of steps, conclude that spikes are necessary, put them back on. Run for 1.5 minutes before getting to the next patch of salted concrete. Reassess. Again and again. Yesterday, over a total of 3.9 miles, I put on my spikes three times and removed them three times, and my efforts did not spare me from all the slipping and skidding that Somerville had to offer. I don’t enjoy it. If I do find myself running along a decent stretch of terrain for which my footwear happens to be correct, I almost enjoy it, but how long will it last before I am once again either tractionless or grinding metal on rock?

Sometimes, there’s a pretty picture or two to be had, but overall, I give running in these conditions a C-. But what is there to be done? I don’t have a treadmill or a gym membership, so my options are a) don’t run at all or b) fucking deal with it. As I learned yesterday when I finally got done with a long day at work, discovered I had forgotten my shoes for my planned run home from work, and promptly burst into tears, a) is not a real option. It’s b) all the way.

As I cursed my way up Main Street in Medford this morning, switching between asphalt and shitty sidewalk virtually every block and truly having not a bit of fun at all, I tried to remind myself of a few things. First of all, I am still getting what I need. As a runner, I need weight-bearing exercise, on my feet, preferably outside. I’m not training for any kind of event. I’m building strength and endurance so that when an event strikes my fancy, I am fit enough to sign up and do it. If I get into the New York City marathon, I am strong enough to train as aggressively as I feel like when the time comes (and by then, I will be complaining about heat instead of ice!). By getting outside and running even though it kind of sucks, I’m still putting in the work that is required, and the work don’t need me to like it every single day.

The other thing is this: I am fit enough to run in these conditions without overexerting myself, and the habit is so ingrained that I don’t ever, ever miss a run, even when it’s not fun. I woke up at 4:45 this morning to go for a crappy run, because even though I knew it would be crappy, I also knew that it would be both safer and less crappy if I got up early enough to do it before the traffic got heavy. When I’m out at 5:15, I can actually run on some of that nice, black asphalt with no spikes, sometimes even for blocks and blocks, without worrying about traffic. I can actually run up Main Street in Medford without pissing too many drivers off (recall my excellent, toddler-approved, light-up vest). I can give myself a real shot at not having a totally crappy time the whole time. Unlike so many areas of my life in which anything less than perfect feels scary and makes me want to quit, running is something that I can do imperfectly, because I know that not doing it at all would be so much worse.

Bless this crappy run, for though it doth kinda suck, it is good enough.