I Ran A Marathon On 2020's Windiest Day

In fact, 2018 and 2019's windiest too

I meant to make this post three weeks ago, but I’ve been lazy. Oh, well.

In my last post a couple of months ago, I laid out some running goals I had for the near and distant future. The short-term goals were:

  • Run 24 miles on my 24th birthday (September 12th of this year)
  • Run a marathon in October

Neither of these goals were meant to be particularly hard to achieve. I’m no stranger to marathon distances, and I didn’t have any objective besides finishing, so I figured it would just be a good way to motivate myself to keep running until I established some semblance of discipline.

I spent my birthday running in giant circles around Bird’s Hill Park, and it was great!

I couldn’t have asked for better weather, and the run itself went perfectly. I don’t really have much else to say about it; it was uneventful in the best way possible. After that performance, I figured that come October, I would be fit enough to have a decent chance at beating my PR from 2015.

When the Manitoba Marathon went “virtual”, I realized that no matter how well I ran, I wouldn’t be able to beat my PR—there’s just no way to avoid traffic lights and other delays in the city. I considered going out to the country where I could run the same few blocks over and over without ever seeing a car, but I didn’t care about my record quite enough to do that. And then, suddenly, winter came and there was snow and ice on the ground everywhere. Given the many non-ideal conditions leading up to the run, I accepted that I wouldn’t be setting any records, but I was still determined to get it done.

I had planned to do it on Sunday the 25th, but I didn’t have time, so I rescheduled to the last possible day: Halloween. The day came, and I was thrilled to see that the temperature was hovering around 0°C, a couple of degrees warmer than the rest of the week had been. Apparently it felt like -7°C, which seemed about normal. And then I actually went outside and realized just how windy it was. And while it definitely sucked, it still felt okay for the first part of the run, which was an out-and-back to Assiniboine Park. Upon returning from that, I went inside for a snack and a short break, after which everything went downhill.

I had 10 miles to go, so I ran a route I knew well to be 7.5 miles, then figured I’d go up and down a street that I thought was about a mile long. The path took me around the Bishop Grandin Greenway, which is wide open to the elements. I remember stopping for a few seconds after turning directly into the wind, looking behind me to see a big tree branch getting blown along the ground, and wondering if this wasn’t some kind of nightmare.

With around 2.5 miles left, things miraculously got even harder. There’s nothing as discouraging as arriving at your home street, tired as hell, and having to turn around again and keep running. I was deep in a pit of despair, and to make matters worse, the short out-and-back that I thought would get me 2 miles turned out to be barely 1, so I had to do it a second time, and cover extra distance on top of that. The only things to slightly raise my spirits were a group of kids that yelled “HOW ARE YOU NOT COLD?!” at me from across the street (which I thought was funny at the time), and a truck that honked their horn as they passed by me (although I’m never sure if they’re doing it in support or to try to scare me). My last show of “support” was some guy yelling “Are you crazy? It’s freezing outside!” from his doorstep as I zigzagged through residential blocks on my final way back home (I wonder if he’ll have anything else to say when I run by his house in the middle of January). At this point I would hesitate to call my activity “running”, since it was really more of a laborious shuffle. But finally, I reached the coveted 26.2 mile mark, and walked the rest of the way home. I can’t imagine how silly I looked walking outside in shorts, but I didn’t really care about anything except food at that point.

So yeah, that sucked, but I accomplished my goals. I do still think that, given ideal conditions, I could have run my best time, but I guess I’ll never know. I found out later that it had been Winnipeg’s windiest day since March 2017! If I had to find any sort of silver lining to this awful endeavour, it was getting to see the Pallister Graveyard on my way out to Assiniboine Park. That was lucky, seeing as it was gone on my way back, replaced by an unmarked police SUV and a Protective Services vehicle.

Anyways, I’ve accomplished all my 2020 running goals, and now I don’t need to feel guilty about taking a week or two off to read and play video games. I plan to keep running through the winter, with no real goals other than maintaining my fitness and not getting injured. Come spring, I’ll push a little harder, and hopefully start making some progress on my medium-term goals!