Getting It Done!

AJWs TaproomOne of the things I have always admired about ultrarunners is their willingness to do whatever it takes to get their training done. It seems to me that ultrarunners, in particular, have an innate ability to block out whatever external factors might be getting in the way of their running to just get it done. I also have seen over the years how running and training have provided opportunities for people to simply do things others can’t.

This realization struck me rather specifically this past week as the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. was pounded by a major winter storm. In the midst of the paralyzing storm, while most of the population stayed indoors and local officials warned of impending doom, three ultrarunner friends of mine laced up their shoes and got it done in order to get to work or to just get a run in during the storm.

First, there was legendary Northern Virginia runner Keith Knipling. A veteran of over 170 ultras, Keith is a renowned research scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. When the blizzard hit last week, here is what Keith did, in his own words:

During Snowmageddon of 2010, I remember taking to the streets, running right up Route 7 out of Old Town, Alexandria, where I live. In a few miles I ran over an overpass over I-395. Looking down, I could see that it was snow covered and no cars were on it. Ever since then, I regretted not taking the chance to run down the middle of the interstate.

When Snowzilla (aka Jonas) hit last week, I knew I would not pass up the opportunity again. So I again ran out Route 7 (in the middle of the road) toward the overpass, but this time took the exit to merge” onto I-395. It was less than a mile, but I was running right smack down the interstate. I had it to myself.

I-395 is cool, but it’s cooler to say that you ran on the Beltway. So I headed south, and got on I-495 at Telegraph Road. By now, the blizzard had really gone into full effect and the wind was whipping and visibility was quite poor. Probably not the smartest move but, as with most things ultrarunning, it was a calculated risk. I would be on the Beltway for a little more than a mile, and continually looked over my shoulder for oncoming snowplows. A mile or two was fine, but I would not have wanted to be on it for long. Again, a calculated risk.

Even more important than dodging the plows was dodging the cops. I saw two when I was out there—one, a city cop, when I was just on the entrance ramp to I-395, and the other, a Virginia state police, right as I was getting off the exit ramp from the Beltway. Fortunately, for the latter, I came upon a stuck car and helped push him out right as the cop arrived to help. Then I continued on my way.

I had no goals or plan that day. I just wanted to get out and take advantage of the anarchy during the blizzard. By setting a mid-run goal of bagging two interstates, I ended up getting a much longer run (15 miles) than I anticipated. Like so many times, wonderful things happen if we just get out the door.

Keith Knipling - 2016 winter storm

Keith Knipling out running in Washington, DC during the storm. Photo courtesy of Keith Knipling.

Then there is Amy Albu. Also hailing from Northern Virginia, Amy is a night-shift nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the Georgetown University Hospital and a veteran of over 130 ultras. Last Friday night, as the city was shutting down due to the blizzard, Amy loaded up her pack with supplies and ran the snowy miles to work. After her 14-hour overnight shift, she downed a cup of coffee and simply ran back home. All in a night’s work! The next day, she was back at it again, powering through her daily two-hour workout.

Amy Albu - 2016 winter storm

Amy Albu running to work. Photo courtesy of Amy Albu.

Finally, there is local Central Virginia ultrarunner Dan Spearin. Dan is a captain with the Albemarle County Fire and Rescue Department here in Charlottesville. In short, he runs the fire house. Last Friday, he and his team were hunkered down at the station, poised to respond to the countless issues that were likely to arise in the midst of the storm. His team, having confidence in his running prowess, had no doubt that they would be ready for any eventuality.

Dan Spearin - 2016 winter storm

Dan Spearin on a snowy adventure. Photo courtesy of Dan Spearin.

Certainly, there are hundreds of other stories like these about people braving the elements to do what they had to do. However, what strikes me about these three is how being runners informed their decisions and behaviors. While most of the world around them was turning inward, these three ultrarunners happily pushed outward.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Troegs Brewing Company Blizzard Of HopsThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Tröegs Brewing Company in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This winter they turned out a delicious Winter IPA called Blizzard of Hops, which is a nice blend of a classic West Coast-style IPA and a more hearty winter ale. Smooth drinking and tasty, it’s the kind of beer you’d want to drink in the midst of a blizzard.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Were you affected by the U.S.’s East Coast winter storm last week? Did your running temporarily change because of it? Or did the weather provide an interesting opportunity for some unique workouts?
  • Do you find that climactic or other adversities don’t prevent you from getting in your daily runs? Do you think that’s a quality runners in general share, the ability to be little bothered by certain discomforts?

There are 15 comments

  1. Andrew

    Living in Southern PA where we got 3 feet of snow, I was temporarily forced indoors for my training. However, it wasn’t long before I got cabin fever and was “running” on the local trails again. Often up to my waist in snow, and only up to mid-shin in the shallow areas, I relished the hard work and adventure of breaking the trail that only animals had used since the storm. Running in those conditions is a humbling experience, pushing hard but hardly moving for 3 miles in almost an hour!

  2. Deserae

    I had a 3 hour run planned Saturday morning, and everyone thought I was crazy for not changing my plans. It was obviously shorter mileage wise, but the effort was the same as 2 feet of snow piled up. Glad to know I’m not the only “crazy” one.

    1. Andrew Titus

      I suppose it really is all relative to what you are used to that decides what ‘extreme weather conditions’ are… but yeah, I can’t count the number of times we’ve put in the long runs through blizzards here in New Brunswick!

  3. Terry Miller

    I volunteer as a park patroller for Jefferson County Open Space here in Colorado. In training, something was said by the Ranger in charge about not needing to patrol when there’s bad snow because no one’s out there. I said “I can patrol, my friends and I will be out.” She knew I was a trail runner, and she just kinda laughed and said “oh, yeah, the trail runners will be out no matter what”. Apparently, our reputation precedes us.

  4. Andy

    Ironically, here in southern New England we were on the northern edge of the storm and only got 4-5 inches. Bummer! I was so looking forward to a long outing in the snow. Undeterred by the relative lack of accumulation, I took off on Saturday afternoon and, for the last hour or two of my three-hour outing, it was coming down hard and blowing sideways. Super fun! The next day I got a text from my sister in the Mid-Atlantic: “You don’t run in this stuff, do you?!” No, she’s not an ultrarunner.

    “Do you think that’s a quality runners in general share, the ability to be little bothered by certain discomforts?” Bothered? Hardly. Bring it on!

  5. runsnotsofar

    Good work everybody! I definitely regretted having moved out of NYC last fall. Didn’t catch the epic storm in the city. During the years living there I had made it a point to either bike or run to work on what could be considered the coldest days of the year. I managed an 8+ miles run two work at below 0 Fahrenheit one morning. Around lunch time my face was “thawed” enough to allow again for most facial expressions.

  6. Jeremy

    Snowmageddon? I have 5 feet of snow in my front yard and that is just because a few days of rainy slush has compressed it down a few. There is no trail to run that isn’t buried within 45 miles of me. It is that way from November to May. There is no road to run, that isn’t an ice road.

    If only we in Idaho could enjoy the gentle, balmy bliss of your Snowmageddon;)

  7. DF

    Keith is a beast and I’ve had the pleasure of running with him a couple times. I’m in DC and the trails are still so snowy and icy despite warm temps. Ready to get off the roads any day now!

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