The Runner’s “Christmas”

I have always loved that first day of spring. Not the official first day of spring but that morning when you wake up and it is over sixty degrees and the weatherman tells you that is it going to get above seventy. You look outside and there is still snow. Not covering the ground but in the piles left by the snow plows. But you know you can put on your shorts and tank top and head out for a run.

I love these days. I love knowing that it is a gift. There won’t be another day like this for a few more weeks. There will probably even be another snow or two before I can put my shorts on again. But today I can be in my shorts and I can run and enjoy the idea of spring.

I love these days because we are all surprised by them. The weatherman calls for them every so often but fifty percent of the time he is wrong so we haven’t dared to believe him. We don’t set out our shorts or change our plans to paint the basement but we do think about it. It is like going to sleep hoping Christmas will come the next morning but not knowing for sure. And then we wake up and there’s the sun and the thermometer reading sixty two degrees and we know it is the runner’s Christmas. It is our day.

We cancel the basement plans and we tell the kids to get there shorts on and go outside to enjoy the day and we make our plans as a running couple to tag team our runs. This year I go first, my husband staying behind, playing soccer in the street with the kids as I head out for my long run on the warmest day of the year so far.

Even the birds get in on the action on these days so there are no headphones, nothing to take away from the total experience of the my first unofficial day of spring, of my runner’s Christmas. Last weekend I ran on this same path. I was all alone as I picked my way over the icy patches left by the latest winter storm. There was total silence. Peaceful but lonely.

Today, it is social. Every runner has the same smile on his face. Even those in their own worlds have the smile that says they know the joy of the moment. They get the rarity of such a day. Those who are not in their own heads wave as they pass by. They greet each other with statements about the beautiful weather. The group runner’s laugh and chat instead of running their normal silent winter stance as a huddle of runner’s using each other to brace against the cold and wind.

These are the days when I feel as though I can run forever. I soak in the sounds and the sun through every pore of my body. These are the days I am most grateful to be a runner. Not just because it is beautiful today. Not just because I see all around me in the piles of snow the proof that it wasn’t supposed to be beautiful. But because I know it won’t be beautiful tomorrow. Because I know they are calling for another winter storm tomorrow and that tonight the winds will change, bringing in the cool air again. I know that it is a gift that I was given earlier than expected. A preview of all of those beautiful spring days to come. Something I can store away over the next few weeks as the winter weather continues to haunt us and pull out of my memory on next week’s long run where I pick my way once again over an icy trail left by old man winter.

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