I know today isn't the actual "last day of winter," but I was taught once in preschool that "winter" means December, January, and February, and I've divided the seasons into even quarters ever since. Winter gets a bad rap but for self-preservation reasons I've been learning to enjoy it more since moving to Chicago. Still, there's no getting around it: today was one of those gross winter days. The temperature hovered just above freezing and the snow was in a slow process of melting and covering the ground with thick, sloppy mud. The humidity was 100%, the cloud cover was 100%, and a 17mph wind was blowing steadily from the north -- so I naturally, I thought it would be a good idea to run-commute due North for 8 miles after work today.
I can't explain why I inflicted this ultimate headwind experience needlessly on myself today. I just couldn't stand the thought of sitting on a bus for an hour with the same people I see every single day. I thought it would be "an adventure" -- the same reason lots of people do far dumber things than run commute. I know I've rationalized all kinds of bad decisions by suggesting it would be "an adventure!" It could have been worse, is what I'm saying.
I had my phone in case I got lost or something, and I'm glad I did. Not because I got lost -- but because there was literally no one else out there the entire time. I was completely alone out there -- during rush hour, no less.
The first thing I saw after I turned onto the lakeshore from Hyde Park was the tiny skyline in the distance, mostly obscured by the humidity.
Why is it so small? Why isn't it closer? This was a little demoralizing.
At mile 2 and change, the full consequences of my mistake had made themselves known to me and I thought about bailing. If this were my old life in New York, I could hail a cab, or walk a couple of blocks and get on the train. Unfortunately, Chicago ain't no New York and I was in the middle of the public transportation desert between Hyde Park and the South Loop. To my right was the lake, and to my left was a highway. There were no cabs. I wasn't dressed warmly enough to walk home. I had no choice but to keep running toward home.
A lot of people talk about "fighting" during a workout. I get it -- I love almost nothing more than the feeling of just killing a workout, of really pushing myself to reach, and then exceed my limits. But over time my reasons for running have changed a lot, and "fighting" for runs has lost its appeal. That's not to say I don't work as hard for my workouts as I used to -- I do. But now I think about it in terms of "giving in" to the workout. Instead of "Hit this pace push harder go go go," I tell myself, "Well, this is the pace you're going to run, and it's really fast so it's going to be hard. Give in to it; accept it." The former is about overcoming pain, and the latter is about welcoming pain.
So, I just gave in to this run. The headwind was just what it was. And I was just going to just deal with it until I got to the nearest train. And after that, I started to have fun.
or the next 3 miles the path alternated between super flooded and just a little flooded. At one point I attached myself to a chain-link fence that lined the path to keep moving forward, hovering precariously over the water. "Relentless forward progress," I repeated to myself while clinging to the fence like a cat on a screen door. (I had read the title to the eponymous book and the phrase has really stuck with me.)
With every mile, I settled more and more into the pace and I felt increasingly at peace with the conditions. There's something really comforting about the purposefulness of the run commute. Your goal is only to move yourself from Point A to Point B. Getting closer to Point B becomes very exciting.
At the end I watched the skyline get bigger and bigger.
I ended at the Starbucks on Roosevelt for a hot chocolate (chocolate milk refuel!)
8 miles, 1:14.