Calm, Relaxing….and Freezing!!

Jan. 17, 2022 — We are having a heat-wave right now. We I went for a run today, it was 26 degrees F!! But last weekend, when I did a long run on Sunday, it was -9F. Now that’s more like it. Yesterday when I went for a run, it was still (relatively) warm 7F. But it was getting dark and the moon was up. Sure, it may appear to be unpleasant to many people — particularly if you never experienced running in the cold weather. But the actual fact is; if there’s no wind, running in the sub-zero condition can be calming and relaxing. As us Minnesotans would say: “There is no ‘bad running (in the winter)’, only ‘bad dressing’!!” I remember, years ago, my daughter was still in high school so it was at least 12-years ago…, my wife and daughter went for a vacation (I think they went to New Orleans…). I was all by myself. There was something I had to do and, by the time my time got freed up, it was already 6PM. It must have been February because, by then, it was already dark and it was -10F. I had 2 choices; like I said, I was all by myself so I can just crash out and watch some movie and have Doritos and Diet Coke for dinner!! (don’t judge me; just reminiscing college days…). Or get dressed and go for a run. I chose the latter. It was one of those runs; I can still remember vividly where I was — I was running along the frontage road by Interstate 94…came down a small hill and going along the stretch along residential area surrounded by leafless trees…. It was one of those nights; windless, calm…and the moon was shining so bright and everything looked blue. Talk about euphoric experience!!

The painting of Kaii Higashiyama

There was a Japanese artist by the name of Kaii Higashiyama. He had the album called “The Blue World”. My dad was a big fan of his and he had this book. I remember seeing this one painting of his; “A White Horse in the Forest”. It must have had the lasting impression on me and, whenever I think of the run that evening, I think of this painting. Where I ran that day didn’t have any lake near-by; but at least it’s appropriate for Minnesota!! Anybody who has experienced such a calm, relaxing run in the freezing winter evening can related to this. When Arthur Lydiard arrived Finland in the early spring of 1966, he had never run in the snow and ice. The weather is, in general, quite mild in New Zealand. On the first run he had with 28 young Finnish runners, at around the half way, he turned around and saw only 2 young girls following him. Twenty-six other youngsters all packed up early and went back. “Young Finnish runners have lost ‘sisu’ (=guts)…” Lydiard publicly stated, intentionally humiliated them. After that, they changed their attitude.

Lasse Viren training through Finnish winter: photo by Mark Shearman

Here’s Mark Shearman’s epic image of Lasse Viren running in the snow and ice. Two major things Arthur Lydiard did in Finland were: (1) get runners away from intensive interval training; and (2) get them out in the winter for long runs. This is the image of what Arthur Lydiard had done to Finnish runners in the 1960s. Lydiard organized a marathon race and the road relay in the middle of the Finnish winter as an incentive to get them out and do long runs. Finnish runners in the 1920s and 30s used to get out and walk or cross-country ski through the forest. The post WWII era, they lost “sisu” and they stopped getting out in the winter. And now they stopped winning international competition; national records not being broken…. Now Lydiard came; kicked their butts to get out in the winter and…here’s the image!! Now they start winning international competitions...including the Olympic Games; setting national records…and world records! The more you run “aerobically” during the heart of winter; the greater the foundation you will develop and the better prepared you will be to race (*HERE is the previous blog I’ve written on winter running).

Nobby running in the snow-covered wheat field with Eastern Washington University campus behind him

Where I grew up in Japan, if we get 1.5 inch of snow and if it stays until the next day, kids were happy! I went to school in Cheney, WA, at Eastern Washington University and we got fair amount of snow and I was very happy!! When my wife and I decided to return to USA after my 3-years at Hitachi as their corporate team coach, we considered either Seattle or Minneapolis. My wife is from Midwest — Appleton, WI, and went to U of MN. “But Minnesota gets really cold!” “I love winter and I love running in the snow!!” My famous last words…. It is a different level of coldness!! But the actual fact is; I still love running in the winter. Sure, here in Minnesota, sometimes with windchill, it could get as bad as -30F!! But sometimes, you will get one of those perfect evening where everything is calm and relaxing…and very CRISP!! And, if you get this kind of euphoric experience one out of, say, 3 runs; that ain’t too bad!! — Nobby Hashizume

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