The first mile and a half is the toughest. In those six, eight or 12 minutes, your hands seem to get progressively colder and wind whips at every bit of exposed skin turning it red like the coals glowing in the woodstove that you foolishly left behind at home.
If you're lucky, the sun is out and you can think about how great it is to live in Central Oregon in January because unlike those poor schleps in Salt Lake City, Missoula or Bellingham, you can at least occasionally get some Vitamin D while you freeze. More than likely, though, it's sleeting sideways and the dark is either being slow to retreat or closing in fast, and you're thinking you should remember to buy batteries for your headlamp before this weekend's 10-miler.
At 2,000 steps, your blood finally reaches your toes, and your feet go from cherry popsicles to something bordering on comfortable. You pick up your head, squint your eyes against the grit the weather gods are throwing your way and grin. In arctic temperatures and ugly weather, you're taking control. You're getting stronger, healthier, happier. Big Bob selling treadmills on late night infomercials on channel 352 can kiss your ass. You're filled with joy, and all you have to do for the next forty minutes is keep putting one foot in front of the other.
January 1, 2012 kicks off a new season of running in Central Oregon with two area fun runs celebrating the holiday. Benefitting the Sisters Middle School Lifeskills program, the Resolution Run is a non-competitive run/walk through the neighborhoods of Sisters. Participants can choose from three routes: a five-mile run, a 5k, or a one-mile fun run. The event starts at 10 a.m. from the Sisters Athletic Club. Registration is available at Blazin' Saddles in Sisters and atthe Sisters Athletic Club.
The Central Oregon Running Klub is also organizing a New Year's Day group run to kick off 2012. This five-ish mile run will leave from the kayak sculpture at the Riverbend Park in Bend at 9 a.m. Registration is not required, and the run will not be timed.
In addition, look for CORK's Hot Chocolate Runs held on the second Sunday of each month from November to February. These are low-key, free, training runs for all abilities and paces with five and seven mile trail run options. Runners meet at 9 a.m. at Shevlin Park. Hot chocolate and treats are provided afterward under the covered picnic area.
The first of the year provides a time to look ahead toward running and fitness goals, and to begin penciling in race dates on the calendar.
Footzone Running Store in downtown Bend is offering Good Form Running Clinics for levels one and two on January 3-4, then kicking off the popular Learn to Run Class on Jan. 7. For more information contact Footzone, or visit store website at, www.footzonebend.com.
The end of January begins the ultra running season with the Mad Ass 50km in Madras. Hot on its heels is the Hagg Lake Mud Run and the start of the 2012 Oregon Trail Series in mid-February in Forest Grove, Ore. The series then comes back to Central Oregon in the spring with the Peterson Ridge Rumble in Sisters on April 15. The Rumble offers a 20-mile or 40-mile course, both with healthy doses of elevation gain. Benefitting the Sisters High School Cross-Country team, the rumble is a low-key, fun event that often gets runners into the high country for the first time in the season.
Central Oregon is also rich with weekly running groups that continue to log miles throughout the winter. These groups provide a great way to add miles, make new friends and maintain motivation for lacing up. Many of these groups are organized through local running and outdoor stores like Footzone and Fleet Feet Sports. Contact the shops for more information, and to get involved with a local crew of like-minded, and similar-paced runners.
All these things - the training runs, the fun runs, the ultras, the running groups, the long solo miles - they're out there for you to participate in, and to draw strength from during the cold winter days. The high desert is waiting with empty trails and teeth showing. It's your call whether it's with a grin or a snarl. Here's to running in a New Year.