Running in the Woods in Winter
Deep winter has finally settled in here along the
We soon agree on a time to meet at The Spot. I don the same grubby sweats from yesterday?s run which charges up my dog, Will. He knows as soon as I touch my trail running shoes it is time to get ready for big fun. Charles and I live on opposite sides of a thirteen hundred acre wooded area - the Westwoods- so we meet at a split on the trails we have termed The Spot. He brings his dog, I bring mine. We both have nearly a mile to run to get there so the warm-up is covered before we rendezvous. We then proceed down the trail to
It is as simple and healthy as can be imagined. The terrain is quite varied and blocked by roots, rocks and downed trees. That is what turns a simple winter run into an obstacle course. We hop, step and jump our way through the woods. It is a varied, full winter workout. It is not fast running and you seldom settle into a steady pace. It means that you get not only an aerobic workout, but also need to traverse an agility course. The dogs love it and run twice our distance. My dog, Will, is an English Setter and he can easily put in 10-
Charles and I have not only shared our running, we also have shared our thoughts and worries. We are near in age and both have three grown children nearly the same age. Over the years, we have covered every topic from sports to sex. We range over the entire spectrum of kids, work and the world. We used to coach boys soccer together many years ago. Neither of us remembers when we first started to run together, but it must have grown out of the coaching and need to keep up with our growing kids. Over the years, we have sailed, hiked, skied and vacationed with our families together. He knows most everything about my family, my work, my politics, and my views of the changing world. And, I know his. Trail running affords us plenty of time to exchange thoughts. The woods are very quiet, especially in winter. We never have to keep an eye out for traffic. And we never need to worry about our dogs getting hit or becoming traffic hazards.
We plan on running together well into our eighties. That gives us twenty plus more years to run. It ought to be easy to keep up the pace into our advancing years as trail running has some real physical advantages. There is no jarring that happens on the road or other hard surface. It is too chopped up to engender any repetitive motion injuries. Seldom is one stride like the previous one. It helps ones balance and keeps sharp small motor coordination. It clears the head as all running does, but with the added advantage of quiet woodland serenity. We often have an entire five mile run and see no one. It is aesthetically dynamic with the season. We both prefer the winter as the deciduous woods are more open and bugs are absent, usually the mind clutter of the week leaves in the first mile. I have never returned from a Westwoods run and not been better, much better, for it. It helps to set up a good weekend.
It is also true that winter running is a good set-up for a strong cycling season. Running covers all the bases: it is aerobic, it works all the lower and core muscles and it is independent, free. It is hard to cycle year around in northern climes. Running is also a simple antidote to cycling burnout. Woods running fits with cycling because it is in keeping with `low impact workout approaches. It also is outdoors which really appeals to me. I have never functioned too well indoors and I get upset with the foolishness of driving to a building to pay money to a young person to yell at you to pedal harder while listening to some techno clang which can really upset my stomach.
There are some downsides. You can trip and fall. You can turn an ankle. In the summer, you can get bit by bugs. You can get lost. You can lose your dog. All these things have happened to us and will all happen again. I am on my third dog since Charles and I began running together. Will ought to last six to eight more years easily. He is a star runner capable of major jaunts that inspire me to keep trotting after him. I need to stay in good shape to keep up with him even if I do just a quarter of his distance. I don?t tell Will, but I am planning to get a dog or two after he is gone. As far and Charles goes, I plan on keeping him as a trail running partner as long as he will tolerate me. I bet that will last for the next twenty years.