It had been over a month since I ran anything over 4 miles. Desperate to build my long runs back to double digits: I agreed to a 8 mile run with my dad, thinking that the added pressure would force me to hit a longer distance. It was only a few degrees outside and the Chicago windchill put the temperature at -1. With limited gear, I was left borrowing whatever my Dad was willing to offer me.
My outfit consisted of two pairs of running tights, an underarmor turtleneck, a sauna suit top (which I HIGHLY recommend), an adidas hoodie, a jacket, a ski mask, a hat, nike gloves, a pair of running sunglasses, a camelbak, and of course my running shoes (Brook ravenna 4). I began breaking a sweat before we even left the house. And as I stepped out into the frigid weather I was pleasantly surprised: I wasn’t the least bit cold. Maybe this wouldn’t be so hard after all.
We decided to run on the streets which I normally enjoy: but a mile in we were met with sporadic patches of snow that may or may not be hiding sheets of ice. I adjusted my stride to a sort of awkward shuffle mixed with silent prayers; the last thing I wanted to do was fall on my ass: especially in the presence of my dad–a veteran runner.
About 2 or 3 miles in stop lights became the issue. While they provided me with time to center myself (catch my breath, drink some water, stretch for a bit), they interfered with my time. While this run was a lot slower than what I normally do: a decreased speed was necessary for these conditions. As long as I keep my distance up in the winter that’s all that matters. Like my dad always says: focus on the distance, speed will come in time.
Between mile 3 and 4 we reached some inclines. In the past, this cement hill would’ve intimidated me but I raced up it with confidence and content, knowing that this is nothing compared to what I face in Iowa. An 8 mile in Mt. Vernon–around town–has a gain in elevation of 182ft. And my regular Iowa route is a straight shot on the shoulder of Mt. Vernon road where the gain exceeds 210ft. So you can imagine how easy this 18ft elevation in Chicago felt.
On the way back I was pushing harder: not only to “finish strong” but because this was the clean part of the street. The only part where I could run faster without risking a wipeout. I tried drinking some water but found it difficult and I was confused as to why. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized, although the water in the camelbak’s pouch was fine, the water in the nozzle had frozen: blocking the water from reaching me.
Around mile 6.7 I struggling, the cold had gotten to me. My legs felt numb, my breathing was off, I was done. My dad stopped to see if I was okay and about 30 seconds later I began to run again: determined to at least hit 7 miles. A bit after that I was considering walking home rather than ruining my time even more. My dad turned to look at me; I was clearly dying. So he clapped his hands together twice: the nonverbal encouragement I needed. After that I was completely in my own head: berating myself with pep talk. You can do this, you got this, you’ve done this before, believe in yourself, you’re less than a mile from home: that’s less than 10mins; you can run for 10 more mins.
We hit the tunnel that I remember from the hour before; we are almost home. My playlist of 2 albums ends and I’m left with silence. I decide not to select more music; if I stop running now I will never move again. We exit the tunnel and my eyes are desperately searching for landmarks; signs that this is almost over. We reach a now dead garden; we are close. We run down the residential streets, approaching home. I pray that at the end of the block I will see the corner store by my house and I do. It’s the most beautiful sight I’ve seen all day.
This is the end and my dad has been speeding up, I push as hard as I can to keep the gap between us as small as possible. We reach home and the distance comes out to 7.77 miles (according to mapmyrun); it’s not the 8 that I wanted but I’m too tired to care. We enter the apartment and I am slow to remove my gear. Eventually, I remove my outerwear: revealing the soaked underarmor shirt beneath. I am surprised to see that this is the most I’ve ever sweated during a run (thank you sauna suit!).
I change into a dry shirt and gulp down a Gatorade. I want to do my postrun stretch sequence but for a while all I can do is lay on my yoga mat in corpse position. Satisfied and exhausted. Happy I went out there and excited to do it again. Thankful for my dad: who is both a support and an inspiration. And for everyone in my life who sees me hit the wall and tells me to keep going.