Run when it’s cold, when you can see your breath, when you struggle with yourself and your covers and want to stay inside, where it’s warm and dry and cozy.
But when you run in the winter, you have the world to yourself. Everyone else will think you’re crazy, and they’ll be right, but you know what crazy is worth. It’s worth the silence, the stillness, and the particular kind of magic that only the winter brings. Every so often, you’ll see someone else, equally as bundled up as you are, equally as cold, face equally as pink from exertion. But mostly, you’ll be alone.
Find the path you usually take in the summer, when kids are playing and avoiding sun screen like the devil, but summer feels far away and the kids are nowhere to be found. Find the path that’s shady with trees in the spring, and strewn with leaves in the fall. All the leaves are gone now, the bare branches throwing spindly shadows over the pavement as you push yourself along. Dodge puddles that never dried and skirt snowbanks, stay on the pavement as much as you can, eyes shifting downward for slick spots. Run through the mist that settles in weather that isn’t quite cold enough for snow, but hasn’t made its mind up to rain. The mist will bite your face and leave your lips raw and vulnerable, and you’ll remember to wear Chapstick next time.
Run in three layers of clothing. Feel the wool move against your skin, debate taking off your jacket once you’ve warmed up enough. Run in tights that stretch all the way down to your ankles, run in socks that reach up to your knees. Wear gloves that refuse to cooperate with your phone’s screen so you end up cutting holes in the thumb and forefinger.
Daydream about shorts and t-shirts while you run.
Retreat to the treadmill when you have to, but only when the weather is bad. You can handle a little rain. You can handle a little cold. Err on the side of caution with snow, and tell yourself you’ll be back outside as soon as you can.
Sign up for a race. Make a bet. Challenge yourself to a streak. Dry your shoes in front of the radiator. Bargain with yourself. Bribe yourself with hot chocolate when you finish, the steamiest shower you can stand, another show on TV with the covers pulled around you. Do whatever you need to do to talk yourself into running. Run because it clears your head, because it makes your heart beat faster, because it feels good. Run with music blasting in your ears, with a watch keeping pace on your wrist, or with nothing at all. But run.
Run until you can’t feel your face, and your muscles are warm from moving up and down, forward and onward. Feel your hair freeze; let your mouth and nose become adjusted to the nip in the air. Will yourself to keep moving because if you keep moving, you’ll stay warm. Run north when you see the straggling birds fly south, turn around and run back home where things aren’t so cold and aren’t so quiet and aren’t so alone.
Run in the winter, in that calm and peaceful air that reminds you why you run. Because you couldn’t not run. Because not even weather could hold you back. Run because you are a runner. And runners run in the winter.