We’ve been having a bit of a cold spell here in the mid-Atlantic. I know that it’s all relative, but temps have been below freezing for the past week, sometimes getting into the single digits at night, which is cold for Philly. I was planning to go running with my new trail group today, but all the logical signs were telling me not to. We got a light snow earlier in the week, which I knew was still covering the trails. I find it hard enough to stay on my feet on the trails on a good day, so add in rocks and fallen leaves, which are invisible due to the the snow, and I was worried that this was an accident waiting to happen. The forecast was for temps in the teens at the start, and as a runner who hates cold weather, that felt a bit extreme. Finally, I picked up an awesome cold this week, and of course, yesterday it managed to settle into my chest. I actually feel pretty good, but years of experience have taught me that running with chest congestion tends to be a dumb decision. And yet, despite all of that, I went out this morning for a run.
I wish that there was some way for me to accurately describe what that run was like. I can tell you the bare-bone logistics – how it was 17 degrees at the start, my hands were numb for the first mile, my chest was working way too hard on the constant uphill climbs. What I can’t describe is how all of those things were secondary to the experience of being out on the trails on a cold, snowy morning.
Years ago, I traveled to Greece on a school trip. We stopped in Delphi, the site of the mythical Oracle. I remember standing in those mountains, surrounded by green grass, and wildflowers, and silence, and thinking that I had never seen anything so beautiful. I was attempting to capture the experience on film when I noticed that my friend had left her camera in her bag, a move that surprised me. When I asked her why, she told me, “I know that it will be impossible for me to take a photograph that will fully capture the beauty of this place. And so I want to remember it as best I can in my memory, not distorted by some image that won’t do it justice”. Of course, she was totally right. I got home, and developed my photos, and discovered that they didn’t come close to showing Delphi the way that I remembered it.
This morning, I had that same experience on my run. We were running through these woods, surrounded by snow, and the only sounds that you could hear were our breaths and our footfalls and an occasional gurgling stream. And I looked around and thought that I have rarely seen anything so beautiful or peaceful. And when we hit a flat portion of the trail, and I was able to glide across the snow covered path, I felt utterly invincible. I was still cold, and my lungs were still tired, but all of that fell away. And it was just us, and the woods, and the snow, and the trail. I found myself wishing for my camera, before I realized that my camera could never fully capture the experience in all its glory.
This morning was a perfect example of why I run in less than ideal weather. Or really, why I run on any given day at all. Because you never really know when you will find that magical moment on a run. I can often go for weeks, or even months, without finding it. But when you do, it makes all those other moments worth it.