When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Those who want to achieve their health and fitness goals don’t let anything stand in their way.
With several weeks of pleasant training runs under my belt and continued mild temperatures in the forecast, I was looking forward to the annual Winterman race day taking place this year on Valentine’s Day. After missing out on last year’s race because I was stuck in bed with the flu, I swore I’d run the 2016 Winterman no matter what. Three days before the event, the temperature took a nosedive and the forecast was now calling for the low -20s. The evening before the race, I had second thoughts. It would be so much nicer to sleep in than to put myself at risk of frostbite.
Later that evening, I received an email from the race organizer. Due to the extreme cold warnings, the marathon and half marathon were cancelled. The 10-km, 5-km and 3-km races would go on, but the start time was changed from 8:30 am to 11 am. I was thrilled with the later start time. I’d get to sleep in after all. And it would be a few degrees warmer by late morning. I made up my mind. I was going to run.
On race day, I bundled myself up from head to toe. Not one bit of skin was exposed to the elements. There were far fewer runners than usual and barely any spectators. Only die-hard runners and fools decided to show up. It was -27 degrees Celsius, but according to my weather app, the wind chill made it feel like -41. That day, Ottawa was the coldest national capital on the planet. Was I crazy?
I reminded myself why I was there. Running empowers me and lifts me up physically and mentally. Whenever I run, I feel strong, happy, liberated from fear and in control of my destiny. Everyone should have an activity that makes them feel this way.
After completing the first 5-km loop of the Winterman course, I made the decision to stop because I was finding it difficult to breathe through my face mask, which had frozen solid. I didn’t feel disappointed at all. I was thrilled. I felt that I came and I conquered.
Two days later, it was much milder, but the forecast was calling for a major snowstorm the next day. I cancelled my clients the night before. I was also scheduled to teach my weekly chair fitness class in the morning, so I contacted the group rep and suggested we cancel. After all, most of the participants are in their 80s and 90s. I didn’t think they’d venture out in such bad weather. Her email reply was resolute; “Don’t cancel. We’ll be there!”
Sure enough, the snow came and was relentless from morning until night. The road conditions were awful and visibility poor as I drove cautiously to the Soloway JCC. Upon arrival, I popped my head through the lounge doorway and was greeted by the smiling faces of the many seniors who made it in despite the storm. Nothing was going to stop them. I remembered that one of them once told me, when I asked why she used the stairs instead of the elevator, “I’ll take the stairs as long as I can!” That morning, we could see from the windows the snow falling as we exercised to cha-cha, mambo and samba music. We shook maracas, laughed, danced and experienced the warmth of meaningful friendships.
The snow storm was epic indeed. With over 50 cm, it easily broke the official record for most snow accumulation in a single day in Ottawa since 1947. After the class, I drove straight home and managed to manoeuvre my car over a snowbank and safely into my garage. I had no intention of going outside anymore that day, but, every time I looked out my living room window, I saw another car stuck in the snow. Each time, I put on my jacket, hat, boots and mitts and went out with my shovel. I helped six people get their cars out of the snow that afternoon. I could have drawn the curtains shut and ignored what was going on. That would have been easy. Instead, I took inspiration from the folks who came to class that morning: Life is about showing up and doing what you can for as long as you can.