The best training days are not when things come easy and you exceed your expectations, or when you run faster than the wind and feel invincible. No, those are the days that make you feel that the training is working, but they are not the best training days. The best training days are those days when you run when you don’t want to, push further than you think you can go, and set yourself apart from the crowd with your determination. They are the days when you don’t let excuses, other priorities or obstacles stand in your way; obstacles like weather, criticism, or apathy.
With that in mind, this week I guess I can say that I had one of my best training weeks as I prepare for the 116th Boston Marathon. Seattle received its first (and maybe only) winter storm complete with snow and ice storms. On Saturday I chose to procrastinate my 12 mile long run when I heard the sound of rain drops on the window in the morning, so when I headed out the door later that afternoon, that rain had turned to snow. Throughout the next ninety minutes I was met with pelting snow, virgin white vistas, and an accumulation of two to three inches. The sidewalks went from wet to white and at times visibility was only two feet at best. The quietness was palpable. Cars disappeared, dog-walkers must have opted for warmer distraction, and I never encountered another runner as I made my way through neighborhoods and parks. When I completed my long run, I had ice crystals on my eyelashes, a smile on my face and quite frankly even though the pace was slowed due to the conditions, I felt exhilarated.
Two mornings later, we had an accumulation of a few inches and I dressed for my regular early morning run, opting for the winter running tights, a whisper light rain coat layer under the fleece vest, and a nice warm skull cap to keep as much body heat in as possible. I ignored the comment from the home front that I was testing my intelligence and headed out the door. The illumination from the snow made my short run quite a bit brighter than normal and again, the quietness made it down right peaceful. A day later, we had several more inches of snow along with the creation of snow banks from a rare snow plow that actually reached our hills and industrious neighbors clearing their driveways. My five mile route was akin to running sand hills as I felt myself sink softly with each step and I had to exert a bit more knee action to lift my feet out of the fluffy white stuff. I felt a bit like a Clydesdale horse prancing through the snow. My athletic abilities were tested as I had to negotiate newly placed snow piles and I recalled my junior high hurdling experience as I did a few small leaps and even fewer large leaps to clear the obstacle in my path. More times than not, I slowed my pace to a tip toe and safely scaled the snowy mounds until I could resume my snowy shuffle. By this third day, I did meet one other runner and we had one thing in common: big grins on our faces. Upon finishing, I checked my pace, a good minute per mile slower than usual, but that wasn’t the point. It was the soft burn I felt in my thighs, the knowledge that I had overcome the urge to abandon the training, and I had got it done.
In celebration, I looked at the pristine snow in the front yard and without thought, I commemorated the occasion by making an adult sized snow angel and thought about all the simple, beautiful experiences one can have by being brave enough to be the first footsteps in the snow, pushing yourself through what may feel like apathy and embracing the peace and quietness of the less traveled road.