In the north, running in the spring is a special kind of challenge. Special as in ‘we don’t have a choice so we adapt.’
Recreational trails where I live aren’t plowed of snow, so footing is nearly impossible. Rutted, packed snow melts a bit and then ices over, creating a slippery dome that invites ankle sprains and spectacular plunges into slushy snowbanks.
So I reluctantly take to the sidewalks in spring, those narrow canyons bordered by a ridge of ice on one side (courtesy of roadway graders) and the front yards of homes and businesses on the other (where a winter’s worth of white stuff is mounded and slowly melting).
The running lane, if I can call it that, is a patchy strip of concrete spotted with puddles, ice and lurking potholes.
We northern runners learn the survival skills of instant groundcover analysis – guessing which puddle is shallow enough to not immerse our ankles. Sometimes we get it right.
Our trajectory on these spring runs isn’t straightforward. Bobbing sideways we do bad imitations of Muhammad Ali – float like a butterfly, splash like a duck. We revive long-neglected long jump skills when we realize that our normal stride is about to land us approximately in the middle of a looming Lake Superior.
Forget pace. Accept intuition. Live with a little slipping and sliding and splashing. The route is a winding one.
Running, in the north, in the spring, is all about adaptation.
photo credit: ‘niznoz’ on flickr.com