Ah, January. For me, it’s about the time that winter running loses its luster. The ice, the snow, the frigid wind; they all make me resent the fact that I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life. Yes, this is the time of year to take longer showers and drink larger cups of tea. Coincidentally, it’s also a crucial time for consistent training as a cross-country runner. Training that is typically done outside. In the cold.
Therein lies the problem. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ll bundle up and run outdoors even if it’s 10 degrees. Unless the trail is iced, my feet are running on it. Why? Well, because of my love of running, obviously! But it’s also because of the faithful teammates who brave the elements with me. This one goes out to them.
It’s 7:30 a.m. and I (a self-proclaimed morning person) show up to practice looking like a bright-eyed stuffed marshmallow, wrapped in layers. I exchange greetings with my teammates and before long, we’re clustered by the door waiting for our Garmin to find the GPS signal. We discuss our running route and pull on our gloves. And then, we’re off. Yes, sometimes there’s grumbling about the cold. Usually though, there’s a positive atmosphere that develops when we gather and tackle our training together. It’s the accountability every runner needs, especially when the sun has all but abandoned us for warmer climates. Together we are more resilient, more detail oriented, more winter-proof. And our strides pierce through the blinding white snow, speaking to the overwhelming power of training partners. Of team.
Yes: Most of the time, those recovery runs with the team seem far more refreshing than they do taxing. But there are also the hard days. The days when I’m tired or sore or being pummeled by 20 mph winds. On my own, these runs would be dreadful. Painful, at best. However, I have my training partners by my side. We feed off of each other’s determination, suffering in solidarity for the common goal: Our very best.
So this goes out to the teammates and friends who make winter training a joy. As runners, we need these consistent teammates. They deepen our resolve when winter tries to make chickens out of us. They help us stick it out when we are tempted to skate by with the minimum. And let us not forget: They make snarky jokes when we take a tumble on the ice.
To all you lovely men and women who have put in the miles with me, especially during the winter: Thank you. Slowly, I’ve morphed from a runner who detested winter to one who really enjoys crisp (read: 20 degrees or higher) runs. And when it’s colder than that: I know I have the support of my training partners to crush those winter miles. Frozen toes become a small side-effect in the greater pursuit of our best.
Running is a beautiful and rewarding sport, but we can’t be naïve enough to think it’s always going to be enjoyable. There are times—ahem, winter—when weather and stress and general busyness, can get to us. So if you have these teammates or training partners: Give them a pat on the back. If you don’t: Relentlessly pursue them. Truly, I can’t overstress the value of having strong, committed teammates. They lift you up and you get to lift them up. It’s a camaraderie that defies even the coldest of winter days.