This morning the temperature outside my home registered 32 degrees — which meant it likely dropped below that just before sunrise. Our wooded lot also shelters us from wind and somewhat insulates us from the cold, and so when I arrived at the health club a few miles from home, the temp was 28 degrees. Fahrenheit. In mid-November. In Florida. As I drove, I listened to the news on the radio and learned that at least eight people have died due to weather in Buffalo, New York. I know I should not complain about my weather woes, but I will anyway.
My running partners have all bowed out of these outdoor excursions, citing cold, sickness, and other wimpy excuses. Me? I hate running on the treadmill, and I hate the idea of losing my edge in the running arena (not that I have much of one). So I determined I would brave the cold and run anyway. I even thought today’s dry cold, as opposed to the humid, windy cold of Tuesday, would actually not feel as bad — even though the thermometer registered 15 degrees colder. My husband provided a mask that would cover my ears and nose and mouth, I wore my Cuddle Duds under my light jacket, and I added gloves to my wardrobe.
I was ready to face the cold — but not the fashion police. I didn’t match. My gloves were black and hot pink, which matched my black pants, but my jacket was a soft aqua with lime green highlights, my running shoes a deep bluish purple, my pepper spray red and black, and my mask was a lovely camouflage (and smelling distinctly like old camping equipment, a remnant from my husband’s biking accessories he kept in the garage).
In the locker room, I stretched, put on my gloves and attached the pepper spray, then attempted to put on the mask. Its Velcro kept sticking to my gloves, so I had to remove the pepper spray, remove the gloves and try again. Below the pony tail? Above the pony tail? I attached it above, breathed, and noticed that wearing the mask made my glasses fog. But as it was cold enough outside, I figured the fog would not be an issue, and I re-donned my gloves and the pepper spray and started to walk out of the locker room. I felt rather conspicuous, not matching.
“You look like Hannibal Lecter,” one of the ladies said.
“Well, then I doubt anyone will mess with me,” I replied with a smile that was hidden by the mask. I looked like Hannibal Lecter? And I was worried about being conspicuous because my colors didn’t match?
Outside, it was cold. I was thankful for the gloves and covering for my ears, nose, and mouth, certain they would make all the difference. Within a hundred paces of the health club door, I realized the mask did, anyway. It kept my ears and nose warm but fogged my glasses. I considered turning back to leave my glasses behind but feared I would choose the comfort of the gym over continuing a cold run. So I kept running — and eventually put my glasses in my pocket. Afraid they would fall out to be lost or broken, I kept reaching into my pocket or pressing the glasses against my side so that I knew they were safe — and in so doing, I realized that while the mask did its job, the gloves did not. My fingers were freezing. My toes — encased in mesh running shoes (so breezy and cool in summer, so freezing and cold now) — felt like solid cubes of ice that threatened to break. (Do they make winter running shoes? But, then again, how many days are winter cold in Florida? Maybe I could get wool socks or toes warmers.)
I made it almost to the mile mark, my goal as I nurse my shin injury, and turned around, still running despite my frozen, hobbled feet because I wanted to be back in comfort as soon as possible. I made it inside, realized I had only been outside for 20 minutes, headed to the locker room, and frightened two friends on their way outside for a run.
They didn’t fear the female version of Hannibal Lecter; they feared the cold I represented. One look at me and they saw not mismatched clothing, but a desperate woman clad for cold who had gotten beaten by it anyway.
I went one way; they hesitatingly went the other. I soothed my frozen toes and fingers in the warm pool, the thaw almost as painful as the freeze, but I was done. I had run — not as far, not as long, certainly not as fashionably dressed as I might have wanted. But it made me wonder how people who live up North do it. A baby dose of cold in Florida was enough to turn my feet back toward the warmth of the health club.
I’m so glad I don’t live in Buffalo, but I have a lot of respect (and prayers) for those who do.