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I sat in my car, staring down the road in front of me.   It was 6AM, the snow had been coming down for hours.  The ground was covered in an inch or two of wet, wet snow.

Do I really want to do this?

I was staring down the starting end of a 20-mile run.  20 miles.  20 miles is a tough run under great conditions, much less snowy ones that were quickly turning worse.

Maybe the treadmill would have been a better idea.

The thing was, the treadmill wasn’t an option.  I had made arrangements to meet my buddy Doug at mile 13 at 8AM. We were running a portion of the Boston Marathon course.

Why did I do that!?!?

My last 7 miles were going to be the first 7 miles of his own 16 mile run.

The minutes ticked by.  6:10 snuck up on me.

Sigh…

It was time to go.  My plan was to run slowly.  The weather and the road condition, snowy with the added bonus of slush, were not conducive for a quick paced trek.  Traction was not high.  I started in the high 8’s/low 9’s.  At just about the mile marker, I stepped off a curb into about 3 or 4 inches of slush.

Great!!!

Water rushed into my shoe.  I love my Kinvaras because they are so well ventilated.  Great for hot, summer days; not so great for slushy conditions.  I laughed.  What else could I do?  I trudged on, trying to keep my feet under me.  As I hit my first hill, I could feel my feet slipping beneath me.  Each stride was not only a battle of getting up the hill, but of making sure that I didn’t lose my feet and land on my face.  Each step required renewed focus, moving from one foot to the other.  I drew a deep sigh of relief as I crested the hill, only to realize that I would now be battling the slippage in a completely different way.

This is going to be miserable!!!

And so it went through this hilly section of the Boston Marathon course.  Finally, I made the turn off of the hills and headed for the next town.  As I tried to let my mind relax a little, a large truck drove by just a little too fast, a little too close for comfort.  If that wasn’t scary enough, he went through a large puddle of slush just as he passed me.  This sent sent a mini-tsunami of slush and ice splashing against my bare legs.

I’m awake!!! Holy Crap I’m AWAKE!!!

Holy cow that was cold!  I gathered myself together.  As I continued on through the growing layer of snow, I wondered why I had only worn little footie socks.  Snow was beginning to accumulate on my bare ankles.

What the hell am I doing?

Just after entering the town of Wellesley, I was greeted by a hill that seemed to go on forever (though I think it only goes for about 2/3 of a mile). Ever-slickening conditions made the climb rather interesting. As I crested the hill I looked at my watch.  I was now running low 8’s.

Too fast.

I tried to slow down, but the legs kept churning.  Low 8’s turned into high 7’s.  As I passed the 7 mile marker (where I was meeting Doug), I realized that I was about 5 minutes ahead of schedule.  Despite telling myself that I needed to slow down, my legs were finally starting to feel strong. Passing Wellesley College, I was brought back to the Marathon last April and all of the screaming college girls offering kisses to the runners (no, I didn’t stop for any!).  I checked my watch as I hit the next mile.  7:30!

7:30? Slow down, Dude!!!

No avail.  Over the next five miles, as I made my way to Natick Centre and back, despite making a conscious effort to keep it under control, and being hyper-vigilant of both ice and traffic, I averaged just under 7:30/mile.  I arrived at our meet up point 10 minutes ahead of schedule. 13 miles in 1:42.  Not bad for such craptastic conditions!

Soon Doug arrived and we were on our merry way.  Conditions were worsening, but it was great to have the company.  As we made our way through Wellesley and back to the Newton Hills portion of the Boston Marathon Course, we chatted away.  He reminded me about the heartbreaking story of why he ran Boston last year and why he is again running for the same charity.  The story is —>HERE<—. We talked shoes, we talked running.

The falling snow was turning into sleet.

Lovely!

The intersections were ankle deep in slush now.  Even if we were able to avoid the puddles (which I wasn’t), we were continually assaulted by the splashing of passing cars.

Finally on the Newton Hills, we were able avoid the flying slush, but of course, now we faced “the Newton Hills”.  I was about 17 miles in at this point (which coincidentally is where they lie on the course), and the legs were heavy.  We pushed our way through, yapping away the entire time.

Before I knew it, I saw my car in the distance.  Arriving at mile 20, I gave Doug a quick hug and sent him on his way to finish his run.

Man! What a miserable frakkin’ day!

I hopped into my car and headed home, downing a couple of mix1’s to speed recovery.

I. Was. Exhausted.

When I got home, I trudged upstairs to kiss the wife and the kids.  We chatted for a minute and then I went upstairs to shower.  I was beat.

What a miserable, miserable outing.

Or was it?

A little later, I saw this on my wife’s Facebook page status:

my husband just ran 20 miles. in the snow. and is all sorts of cheerful. please tell me it’s ok to hate him. just a little.

The thing is, she was right.  I was totally cheerful.  I was beat. Yes.  I was exhausted. Definitely. But I also felt great!  Despite the conditions and the traffic (maybe because of the conditions and the traffic), I had a great time out there.  Would I want to run that every week? Well, no.  BUT, I gotta say, in retrospect, I had a great time.

Thanks Doug for keeping me company for the last 7 miles!

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Why do you run?

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Soft.

Over the last 2 1/2 months I’ve put close to 300 miles in on the treadmill and because of that I am getting soft. The treadmill has made me a weaker runner this winter. The steel and iron have given way to fluff and dough. I no longer can honestly look in the mirror and see that hardened runner that looked back at me last fall. Running on the treadmill over the winter has taken that all away.

What’s that? How is it that I’ve managed to run close to 600 miles in 4 months and gone soft? How has my body responded in such an unexpected way?

…Oh, did you just ask about my body?

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about my will.

Yes, it is not my body that has turned to fluff and dough – it is my will. And if I’m going to be completely honest, will is probably the wrong word. When I get into a race I will buckle down and fight. I will push my body as hard as it will go. I will walk away from a race knowing I ran hard. So it’s not that part of my will that has gone soft.

I’m having some trouble putting my finger on it. For the last few days, the weather here in Boston has been miserable – cold, wet and rainy. In fact, I don’t know if it has stopped raining since Friday. It didn’t really bother me on Friday. I was still high from my Thursday Lunch Half Marathon. But on Saturday I really started to get an itch to run. You runners know the feeling – the legs get restless, the horses want to be let out of the barn. I looked out my window and saw some kid running by. Normally, my first thought would be, Oh man! I wish I were that kid right now! But no. You wanna know what my first thought was? It was, Jesus that kid is nuts! It’s 32°, windy and raining cats and dogs out there!

I jumped back from the window.

What the frak was that? I asked myself. But it was true. It was 32°, windy and raining cats and dogs. It looked miserable. I was so confused. My legs and body wanted to run, but my brain was telling me, Not out there buddy. I did end up putting in 10 miles – in the comfort of my basement, on the treadmill, while watching 2 old episodes of Star Trek (yeah, I’m not afraid to admit it – I’m a total sci-fi geek). I broke a sweat, my legs were happy – as was the rest of me in the pleasant 68°.

I told myself not to worry too much about my earlier reaction and in fact told a friend that I might run 7 1/2 miles on Sunday to her first 5K to root her on and then run home. I knew it wasn’t going to be warm, but what the heck, it’d be an easy way to get 15 – 18 miles in with a nice little break in the middle. She mentioned that it looked like it was going to rain but I shrugged it off. I shrugged it off, that is, until I got up the next morning and realized that in was only in the high 30’s and the rain was even stronger than the day before. I wished her well on Facebook.

As the rainy day progressed, I found myself on dailymile and twitter, cheering on friends like Michelle and Pigtailsflying for the rain soaked long runs they were taking.  I’ll be joining you guys soon I would write, silently adding in my head in my basement, on my treadmill, in front of the TV, where it’s dry and 68°.

The final straw came last night as I was picking up pizza for the family for dinner. Both on the way to and from the pizza place I saw runners – true, hardcore runners – out there, putting in their miles. They were braving the cold wind and rain while I sat in the comfort of my car. I caught myself thinking, Man, those are some crazy runners!

And that’s when I realized that my treadmill had made me soft.

There was a time when I would have laughed at the weather and then run like it wasn’t there. That time is no more. Maybe I’ve gotten old. Maybe I’ve become wiser. But there is part of me that is very much afraid that perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve become soft.

I will run in the rain again.

I love running in the rain.

Just when it’s about 35° warmer.

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