Winter is upon us, bringing with it snow, ice, and biting cold with a chance of rambling.
I grew up in The North. The winters there were something to reckon with. Late January nights that approached that dead still crossover between celsius and fahrenheit at -40 were not uncommon. Those black nights would be followed by searingly cold days, lit stark by a mean white sun hanging low over the sparse spruce and scattered houses. I spent a lot of time out in the snow, as any child that can should, crunching home at the end of a short day with skin stiffening under a scarf frozen solid to the contours of my face. Happy to have my hands out of mittens, I’d use my bare fingers to squish the tiny clumps of frozen breath stuck to my eyelashes, marveling at how quickly they melted. I think there was a TV channel (one of thirteen, mind) that was somehow dedicated to forecasting the weather. Twenty years ago or more, I still have vague memories of the early computer-screen display on that channel, somehow receiving data from a nearby Environment Canada station. We’d check the upcoming weather and plan ahead, being sentenced to cold or very cold.
I swear I never heard of windchill until I moved to Toronto.
Sure, thanks to the major streets channeling the wind and a lack of trees or other natural windbreaks, Toronto is a much windier place than my old home town. But there is some part of me, a primitive, misguided part, that wants to mock these soft, southern, ‘city folks’. “Cold out? The only reason it’s cold is because the meteorologists inflate the numbers with windchill! They’re cooking the books! There’s no such thing as windchill, just being improperly dressed! Back when I was a lad, etc, etc.” That may just be macho posturing, but I definitely like to think of myself as hale, hearty, and immune to the cold. (despite having lived in the city for the last fifteen years, half again as long as my time spent up north as a kid)
It’s been running that has made me feel all the more like a viking. There is something profoundly soothing to those ridiculous, machismo-dripping glands nestled deep in my hindbrain about running in the winter. Flows of sweat and snot and misted breath freezing on my ‘stache and eyebrows while I run through the streets, alleys, and rare wooded paths, woefully under-dressed but perfectly comfortable. Hacking up a gob of gunk at the top of an awful hill climb, then pausing for a second to take a double lungful of freezing dry air and carrying on.
I’d much rather run on a cool autumn morning. This whole thing may be me trying to find something satisfying, something that makes it worth putting up with the general godawfulness of running in subzero temperatures. Or maybe this is just another obstacle to be conquered, and to derive satisfaction from the conquering.