“Run with me in the snow tomorrow,” my friend said.
I looked out the window at the blanket of browning slush covering the sidewalks and felt discouraged. I had always thought of running in the snow as wrongfully romanticized, but I desperately wanted to run outdoors again. After much internal deliberation, I agreed to join her.
At 8:00 am the next morning, I laced up my shoes hesitantly. Although I was used to the briskness of winter runs, the ice layered on the sidewalks and my lack of coordination concerned me. If I found walking through snow difficult, I couldn’t imagine myself trying to run across it. Despite my reservations, I knew my friend would be waiting for me so I headed out.
From the Medical School Entrance, we turned left onto Reservoir Road. Instead of concentrating on the cold, I watched my breath, which I could see condensing in front of me, and the muted winter sky. It possessed a certain kind of quiet and understated beauty that I had never been able to grasp from behind the glass of a window.
We turned left again, cutting behind Georgetown through Glover Archbold Park, and ended up on the Capital Crescent Trail alongside the Canal. I have always had a difficult time running along the eleven mile path, which ends in Silver Springs, MD. Although there are some beautiful sights, the pavement and the linearity of the trail give it a challenging monotony. I often find that I can barely make it more than a mile on my own volition without being overcome by boredom and turning around.
The snow, however, gave the trail an entirely new appeal. A thin layer of white covered the usually unappealing pavement. Although there were icy areas, it gave me reason to pay attention to my feet and to notice the whiteness and crispness of the snow beneath me.
I found my eyes drawn to the Potomac’s hardened surface through the trees. The ice covering the river looked marbled as the water had frozen in thin rolling patterns, especially around the edges.
On our right, the Canal was completely frozen over. A thin layer of frost covered the ice and there were thin marks, suggesting that people had been skating on its surface. As we ran farther down the trail, we passed men in ice hockey equipment shooting a puck across the width of the Canal.
After running about 2 miles down the trail (3 miles in total), we reached Fletcher’s Cove. We took a minute to stand on the bridge and appreciate where we were. The sun flickered down brightly on the Canal and reflected off of the snow covered trails. I could feel its subtle warmth on my skin. I desperately wanted to capture that instant because for the first time, the quixotic image of running in the snow felt completely real and palpable.
I have a hard time recalling details of the trip back because I had let that moment take hold of me. I remember enjoying it and letting it all wash over me. I remember finishing six miles and wishing we could have done more.
I don’t mean to overly romanticize running or the snow by writing this because not every second is painfully beautiful. A lot of it might just be painful. The more I have run, however, the less I feel the pain and the more I appreciate the beauty because I’m always looking for it.
Running has given me, among other things, a lense through which I can fall in love with the world around me.
Photo credits: Lara Fishbane