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home > community > viewpoint > nor'easters don't dampen the spirits of the new england runner.

Nor'easters don't dampen the spirits of the New England runner.
As a matter of fact, we like it!

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By Christopher J. Russell
Posted Monday, 15 December, 2003

It snowed off and on for three days. Not the slushy, rainy snow that we usually get in December, but the small-flaked, cold weather, fluffy variety of more northern climes. Gusting winds of 30-40 MPH drove the fluff sideways and sculpted modern-art-shaped drifts around the bushes and trees.

Chris Russell thinking "snow".

All the local clubs were supposed to run the Mill Cities Relay on Sunday, but that was cancelled by Saturday morning. I was let down. This is the healthiest I've felt in two years and I was looking forward to testing myself on the long flat 9.2 leg that I've not run before.

It's not like we New Englanders haven't run in the snow before. In fact, living in New England, most of us average runners don't mind the inclement weather. It comes with the territory. Not only do we expect it, we tend to revel in it. It is a sort of badge of honor for us. We tell war stories.

Some of our favorite races are designed to build that strength of character that we like to define ourselves by, that legendary Yankee toughness that we aspire to.

Take the Derry New Hampshire 16 Miler Boston Prep race in January for instance. It's not enough for us to run 16 miles over a series of ¼ to ½ mile steep hills in the dead of winter, we have to do it howling blizzards and ice storms.

The weather at this race is legendary. In 1999 I didn't have the privilege, but many local runners ran in the freezing rain on a course that forced them off the road and into the woods to find some traction.

I ran Derry in 2000, during a snowstorm that dumped 6-8 inches of snow on the course while we ran. We were confined to a single tire track where we could get enough traction to struggle up the hills. Rarely have I seen people having so much fun. It was a hoot. Last year it was around 10 degrees. The police tried to call the race, but we all plodded through it, frozen stiff as boards.

Another legendary New England 'tester' is the Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler. The T-shirts boast "No Weenies". Anyone who has shared the experience knows that the T-shirts are appropriate.

It's an absolutely beautiful course, down the coast of Martha's Vineyard and back across the island on the plowed bike path. I joined a couple hundred hardy souls last year. We took the ferry over to the start. The police shortened the course to 18 miles because of all the snow. The temperature was a balmy 5 degrees with a soothing sea breeze to boot. I had my fleece sweater hood cinched up to just an eyehole to peer out of. By the end of the race my sweater was so stiff I couldn't bend my arms!

The bike path had been plowed, but when the sun came out briefly, it created smooth ice patches in all the low areas. I went down twice, once while turning to warn the person behind me! You'd plant your foot on what looked like an innocent shadow and whomp! Head over heals. Once again, something to tell the grand kids about.

One of the other loony races I frequent is a sports bar 10k on New years day morning at 8:00 AM that offers participants a free mug if they take a dip in the ocean after the race. (That's the Atlantic Ocean folks), and some of those runners do it!

Then of course there is the hilly "Stu's 30k", another local punisher. This one lets the locals know who's ready to toe the line in Hopkinton a month or so later.

It just goes to show you that people, especially runners, can create fun out of almost any circumstances. In New England we have cold snowy weather, so we suit up, go out and have fun with it.

I was disappointed to have Mill Cities postponed, but I got over it by running a 10k training run...on the the woods...cutting my own path happily through the drifts and feeling sorry for those poor people who have to live in boring places like California, Florida and Australia, where there's only one season. Bunch of weenies.



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