One 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.
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.
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.
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.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This 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?