Winter running in the Roans.

Here we are, the dawn of a new year. The holiday festivities are over, those of us who have been enjoying some time off will return to school and work this week, and a long, cold winter lies ahead. Athletes in the Southeast enjoyed a lengthy autumn this year, with unseasonably warm temps that almost allowed us to forget that colder days are on the horizon. This week’s forecast calls for snow flurries, increased darkness, and mornings of running in sub-freezing temperatures.

Reluctantly, I break out the hat, gloves and full-length running tights, contemplating with dread the long winter that looms before me. How will I possibly survive three or four months of grayness and gloom? Since I can’t change the weather, I guess I might just have to adjust my attitude. So, in that spirit, here are the top ten things I love about winter running:

1)    Getting to break out the cool winter gear that is buried in the closet the rest of the year. Arm warmers, Gore-tex shoes and Windstopper jackets, flashy tights – a gear junkie’s dream.

2)    Avoiding summer’s heat. No worries about sunscreen, avoiding the heat of the day, or stashing extra water bottles along the trail.

3)    Having the excuse to cross-train. It’s a good chance to hit the gym and work on some of those muscle groups that get ignored by just running.

4)    Running through the quiet early morning and early evening darkness, seeing the sun rise and set and the twinkling of stars.

5)    Making the first human tracks on fresh virgin snow that fell overnight. Seeing the paw prints of those creatures who were out there before me, reminding me that I am not alone in the woods.

6)    Running through the quiet darkness of neighborhoods, smelling smoke from the fireplaces and peaking through windows to catch glimpses of life inside.

7)    Not having to worry about speedwork.  Wintertime is for building a base – plenty of LSD to create a strong foundation for the spring racing season.

8)    Having an excuse to duck out of a house full of relatives and holiday visitors for an hour of solitude.

9)    Post-run thawing out by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate.

10) Feeling like a badass for braving the elements while all your wimpy friends are huddled up inside.