03 February 2013

winter running


Each breath pulls a knife into my chest and my lungs shrivel. The sidewalk is mostly clear but here and there ice lurks in treacherous patches like polished, grey steel. I hold my breath and run across, flat-footed and slowly. This is no weather for outdoor exercise but after a week of confinement I was going stir crazy.
 
I reach Ellens Creek after four minutes and already my toes are losing feeling and my eyesight is slightly blurred. I glance right taking in the view towards the harbour where the waters have solidified into broad, white slabs which rear at odd angles, buckled by the tidal pressure. Ducks stand resolutely at their posts to wait out the freeze, shoulders hunched under puffed feathers.
 
Over the past six years I have grudgingly come to accept the severity of winter in my adopted country. At first I shunned hats and gloves and dressed more for a balmy British autumn than a harsh Canadian winter. I know I drew suspicious glances when I ran hatless in shorts and vest. A crazy foreigner. Today at least I am properly attired for my run, that’s if you consider running at minus fifteen proper at all, and if you do you might be in a minority of one.
 
Are these leggings verging on the effeminate? Not so long ago I would have guffawed at the notion of venturing out in daylight like this but if you want to be a runner in mid winter you have to dress like one. It’s what people expect. Beneath all this skin protection is a base layer, my hat and gloves are thermally insulated and the soles of my socks have copper thread. But I am cold.
 
I leap over a frozen snow heap and cross North River Road. As I try to hold my pace up the steep incline, cars crackle by on studded tyres their drivers wearing puffy jackets and sensible hats. I reach the lights at Belvedere and turn around, circling on the spot with dainty little steps befitting of my debatable leggings. I realise my thick coating of lip balm has reconstituted into a layer of dense wax.
 
Downhill I reach a slow gallop like a tall, black giraffe. I check my watch and I’m on schedule because no run is purely for fun, least of all today. I need to monitor my time and pace. The Island marathon is far away but a winter of lethargy would make for a hard summer of reconditioning.
 
This is a short outing, just twenty minutes. Not long enough to get into ‘the zone’ but a chance to get the heart pumping and to blow out the cobwebs. As I re-cross the bridge over the bleak Arctic tundra of the creek, the late afternoon sky is darkening and street lights are struggling to penetrate the gloom. Home and a steaming bath beckon.

12 comments:

Russell Duffy said...

Lip balm and leggings eh? My long held suspicions finally made fact!
:-)

Russell Duffy said...

PS. I was so attracted to the image of you looking like a camp SBS commando that I returned for a second look!!!

Perfect Virgo said...

Get outta town! That's a greased racing snake, right there!

Russell Duffy said...

The less we speak of your greased racing snake the better young man!!

Michelle said...

You're making me cold just reading this. I like the imagery of you running "flat-footed and slowly." I can picture this. I also find the question, "Are these leggings verging on the effeminate?" rather humorous. I think you might need a comma after studded tyres? Oh, and "polished, grey steel" is a great description too. Well written!

rubymad said...

This was a fun piece for me to read, and I am someone who has never been a committed runner. You build a terrific sense of place, and the environment. I especially liked the, “suspicious glances when I ran hatless in shorts and vests.” As a newcomer to Canada, I can relate to the dismal unpreparedness (dare I say arrogance) for a Canadian winter.

I found myself wanting more, however. It felt like the piece ended somewhat abruptly. Here I was jogging alongside a gangly black giraffe, and then poof—he was in a warm bath, and I was left staring after him.

Looking forward to reading more! Thanks for sharing.

amber krauskopf said...

I felt as if I were along for the run beside you. Great descriptions :)

robertmadigan said...

Paul- I enjoyed this piece. I really like these momentary pictures, focused subjects when reading blogs. It is easy for me to identify with running in adverse conditions after serving in the military. The piece had a nice blend of humour and realism.

I really enjoyed the lines “I know I drew suspicious glances when I ran hatless in shorts and vest. A crazy foreigner.” You paint vivid imagery here and these lines seem to speak to P.E.I. as a place (in my view). You handled the slight tense shift in this paragraph with mastery.

The closing was beautiful and bleak like the scenery you describe. There was a nice poetic quality here. Enjoyable read.

Thanks,
Bobby Madigan

Perfect Virgo said...

Comma slipped off my keyboard I think, M!

Ruby, I usually run for at least an hour and rather longer in the summer but in recent weather, brevity won! Hope I can go further next time.

Amber, Thanks for commenting. Shoes available at Sport Chek!

Bobby, thanks for picking up on the blend of humour and seriousness. You have to have a sense of humour to venture out at this time of year!

Schmorgie said...

I can feel the cold Charlottetown wind as I read - I love the imagery here. Great read!

Perfect Virgo said...

Not getting much warmer yet!

Gel said...

What a picture! I'm glad you take winter precautions w/ the lip balm. You are so brave to brave the elements and run! (Just glanced to my more after seeing part of CJ's comments from my peripheral vision. Then your response.OMG- You both and the public can only imagine what I MIGHT say about greased snakes... Love to laugh at you two "sparring" so tis best if I don't add my "spices" to this convo! Ok, can't resist... uh, garLICK, SinaMoan- AM stopping while I'm ahead, not "behind." See my Smile: { } You have to imagine.