I can still remember the first winter I considered running outside in the bitter cold. I remember because I was terrified. Can you relate? It was one of those things I knew I needed to do, but I was convinced it was going to be terrible, T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E.

Over the years, however, I have developed a line that I use on myself in these situations. It goes like this.

“A lot of other people do it.” (I guess I am a sucker for peer pressure)

“What makes you different than them? If they can do it, you can too”

That’s my line. Try it. It was my line for triathlons, marathons, Ironman’s and every little step in between.

I was still terrified, though. At the time I was always cold and hated being cold, so the thought of going outside to run in the winter was similar to running fingernails down a chalkboard. It seemed wrong in virtually every way.

But I did it.

And, I promise you, there is actually no better season to run.

winter running

WHAT?! #Youdidntjustsaythat #haveyoueverruninfall #whataboutspring #whataboutsummer

Yeah, I know. I know. All the seasons have their merits, but winter….winter will make you a warrior. It will make you a warrior not just in running but in life. And, if you have not realized it yet, we all need some warrior to get through this life because it is anything but easy.

I just picked up a new book to read called Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist, http://shaunaniequist.com/books/. The premise of her book is so poignant, so spot on. Here’s a little excerpt:

“Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.”

Running isn’t just about running. And, running in the winter isn’t just about not being cold.

In my running I have learned that the races that I ace, the ones I breeze through, the ones that are perfect, are fun, really fun. They encourage me, bolster my spirits, and remind me of how hard work pays off. But the ones that are really hard, where I have to suffer and dig deep and make a conscious decision to finish, those are the ones that teach me about life. They nudge at my soul and remind me that when things are hard I always HAVE A CHOICE. I can quit, pout, and be ugly, pessimistic and bitter. Or I can endure and persevere with a grateful heart. I can do the right thing even when it is really hard and I can learn from those times. Each time the warrior in me grows a little bit stronger.

Winter running is very much about embracing the bitter. Don’t get me wrong, there are days that the beauty of winter blows my mind and the peace and the brisk air make me feel more alive than virtually anything else.

But there is also a lot of bitterness. The wind and the temperature are some times more than I bargained for. And it is always, always hard for me to step out the door even after 16 years of running. Getting out the door is still by far the hardest part.

Bitter makes the sweet seem sweeter.   Bitter will make you a warrior…..and a happy one at that.

Happy warriors resized retouched

If you currently run or walk in the winter, why do you do it?  What’s the best part to you?

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