I had 9 miles on the docket this weekend – longest run of 2015 thus far . I knew Pittsburgh was supposed to get about 1″ of snow Friday night into Saturday, so I figured it would be long monotony on the treadmill.
I woke up to this.
Off I went in the ungodly 28 degree weather, bundled up in running tights, a long sleeve tech tee, a hat, tech gloves, and a fleece jacket (!) Those of you who know me know my aversion to jackets while running. And indeed, about 1 mile into my run, I regretted wearing it. At least it could unzip and vent heat that way.
I knew from my clumsy encounter last year that I was going to walk anything that was slush-plus. A little slush is okay, but I was NOT going to tempt fate. I was also curious how my asthma was going to influence my pace – my biggest triggers for asthma are exercise, cold weather, and allergies. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a two-fer!
I ran my favorite route to the Birmingham Bridge, down East Carson for a bit, looped at the Hot Metal Bridge and ran through South Side Works for a bit before coming back to my neighborhood. I made a mistake and instead of my normal hill back into Oakland, I actually ran the marathon hill – and although it hurt, I did it all! And my pace was actually quite good, if I do say so myself – about a 9:59 mile averaged throughout the 9 miles. It underscores my need for long-distance running in terms of pace. When I run 5Ks, I struggle to maintain a quick pace, but it’s usually no problem at all with anything over 5-6 miles. I also took my last pack of Gu Chomps since it was over 5 miles – so I’m sure they helped. They were super sticky since they were from last training season, so I probably looked like a cow chewing her cud in the South Side.
A few analogies came into my head regarding the snow and running…
The snow was gorgeous on the trees and on the buildings. I live in a fairly quiet area of Pittsburgh, and there’s something so solemn and peaceful when the snow is falling. When I swam competitively (and even when I swim now,) my favorite part was going underwater and remaining there for a few seconds. The sheer silence coupled with the weightless feeling of my body evoked magic.
But for all the magic of the silent snowfall, it wreaks havoc on the roads and sidewalks. Like the snow on the trees vs. the sidewalks, how often do we hide the pain in our lives while maintaining that beautiful exterior? Tell everyone “Oh, I’m great” while using our utmost strength to shove down any potentially escaping emotion to the contrary? Praying to God, “Please don’t let the house of cards that I call my countenance fall while in the presence of this person”? God, I am so guilty of this all.the.time. As a teacher, I am DAMN good at masking emotion. It’s how I can deal with a recalcitrant child and then proceed with my lesson nonchalantly. It was a major coping mechanism with my divorce – to this day I take pride that ONLY the people I told were the ONLY ones who knew. No one could tell from my attitude, my appearance, my feigned happiness, that anything was going on.
I also thought about how our faith journeys can mimic a snowy run. So many of the sidewalks were clear and salted. (Thanks, Pittsburgh homies / the law saying it has to be cleared.) On the clear patches, I ran quickly. But I always had an eye out for the ever-changing conditions. When I saw slush was coming up, I adjusted my pace and either slowed down or walked until it was gone. I’ll let you guess what I did for this stretch of sidewalk up the marathon hill. Look at that dang hill, people. Feel my quads this morning.
How nice would it be if we could see when rough patches of our lives are about to hit us? “Oh, I see that this person is going to jerk me over, I better prepare for that. Work is going to suck 3 weeks from now, better bring out the Crock-Pot aka my life partner.” But that’s not how it works, and that’s why it’s especially important to keep our faith lives in order. I will be the first one to admit that I’ve struggled with faith a little bit – and need to be better with it. But I feel amazing after I’ve listened to some Christian music (if anyone needs recommendations for Christian running music or even my favorite chill tunes, please hit me up) or prayed or written in my gratitude journal (more on that later.) God, please keep my eyes focused on You as I run this race of life (oh and the marathon. That too!)