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The Benefits of Running in Subzero Temperatures

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Running in subzero temperatures is not recommended by doctors or mothers. If you're a cautious person and enjoy the safety, warmth and predictability of the treadmill, then read no farther. But, if you're looking for a running experience that defines toughness and catapults you beyond the mere mortals that sit comfortably in their homes as you stride past, read on.

Running outside this time of year requires something extra in terms of motivation. It can be difficult to stick to your plan any time of the year. Right now is gut-check time. Not many runners are out there on the roads and trails right now. If you see one, you know at least three things about them: 1. They're serious, 2. They're tough, 3. They're suffering stoically.

Mark Remy recently wrote a piece titled "The Power of the Ice Beard" for Runner's World. He captured the essence of the winter runner's attitude. We may be suffering a bit now, but just wait until spring season. Those runners training for the Boston Marathon know what I mean. There's no room for sissies.

I ran an 8-mile loop by the ocean today when it was a balmy 10 degrees outside. The windchill was around -5 to -10 degrees. Here's how it went:

Mile 1 -- I can't fill my lungs without coughing cold air. Nose starts to sting as I approach 1/2 mile mark. My nose runs faster than I do.

Mile 2 -- Why won't these mittens keep my fingers warm? Feeling in the 2nd and 3rd toes is gone.

Mile 3 -- Hands are warm now, sweat beginning to drip from underneath my hat. Toes are still incommunicado.

Mile 4 -- Feeling has come back in my toes. My hands are sweaty. I want to curse every truck that passes by and blasts me with fumes and frigid air.

Mile 5 -- A nice ocean breeze off the water brings the windchill way down. The sweat has now frozen to the front of my sunglasses. I start to wonder if maybe 6 miles would have been a better idea.

Mile 6 -- Pass a walker and a dog. Both of which stop in their tracks and turn to watch me run by. Must be thinking the same thing: "What on earth is he doing?" I wave politely and try to say something but I've lost all enunciation due to the cold.

Mile 7 -- The sweat now drips mercilessly on my cheeks and neck. I pick up the pace just to get back sooner. I pass a cyclist with full face mask and think: 1. He must be serious about his cycling 2. A full facemask? C'mon...

Mile 8 -- Mittens come off a half mile from home. Feeling good now that I'm close. I turn into the driveway and feel the sun on my face and think what a beautiful day this is.

Cheers to all of you that are out their logging miles. Each time you head out you're building your endurance, your grit, and your confidence. This time of year, the days may be frigid and messy, but they are also quite beautiful.

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