Not much. But enough to ice up the sidewalks and the sides of the roads.
And here in New Hampshire, it may have been enough to end the outdoor running season.
There will be diehards who will find a way to run all winter. I don't think I am one of them.
There is an indoor track at a local high school that the public can use from 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. during the week.
Too early for me, I'm afraid.
But though the season may be over, my running days are not. I will be back in the spring.
In reflection, I'm amazed that I've become a runner, and that I love it as much as I do, and that it's become such an important part of my life.
And I am amazed and proud at what I've accomplished in just the four months since I started. I've participated in three 5K races, improving my time a little with each one.
From the first quarter mile in the heat of summer, to the 3.1 mile Gasping Gobber in the autumn chill last Saturday, it's been a fun run.
My goal over the winter is to get on a exercise regimen that will, one, help maintain the weight loss that I've achieved since I started running, and, two, prepare me for the next running season.
But I will already have a headstart when spring arrives. Because I know now that I CAN run three miles. I can even run five miles. I will resume my running with a confidence that I didn't have when I started.
That, perhaps more than anything else, is what running has given me. Self-confidence.
I'm a week away from the 5K I've been aiming for and training for since August. And now...my legs hurt.
The first couple months of running, I marveled at how well my body and especially my legs were holding up.
But minor achiness and stiffness started creeping in a couple weeks ago. Then the unplanned 5K that I ran last Saturday seemed to really take a toll. Probably the hills, which I had not trained for. Or possibly just some accumulative effect of two months of running -- a new and very physical activity at the age of 56.
A couple years ago I was having mysterious knee pain. I finally went to an orthopedic doctor. She took X-rays and found nothing wrong. In fact, she said I had "young knees."
I've had very little problem with my young knees in my two months of running. But the other parts of my legs are not feeling very young at all. I've been gimping and limping all week.
The Monday after my first 5K, I strained my left calf near the end of my run. It was very sudden and unannounced. I rested a couple of days then ran again on Thursday. Afterwards, I had a hard time walking because of pain in the upper hip/groin area of my right leg.
So, I've taken two more days off from running, which I probably would have had to do anyway because of work and other circumstances. And today, my legs are just sore all over. No concentrated area of pain -- just sore. I actually think this is improvement, because I'm walking better.
But if I'm going to keep running, I really need my legs.
I was very discouraged yesterday, feeling like my running "career" may already be over -- that I just don't have the legs for it at this point in my life. Today I'm a little more encouraged.
There are bound to be aches and pains with running, just like there are with any athletic or physical activity. But when do you rest, and when do you just keep going? A friend of mine at work said his father, who's a little older than I am, was a runner at one time and tried run through the pain. He ended up totally messing up his legs and can't run anymore.
Build rest into your training and don't overdo it. That's the advice I'm getting from most of my friends.
But it's hard to not run once you've started running. It becomes a part of who we are and what we need. We have goals to meet, and ghosts to beat.
Two weeks ahead of schedule, I ran my first 5K yesterday.
Three months ago, I would never have imagined it.
As with all new runners, there is a great sense of satisfaction -- and relief -- that comes with having the first one under your belt. Even though I've been running the distance for several weeks now, there was still a nagging question in the back of my head of whether I was ready to run in an organized race. What if I couldn't make "the hill?" What if I couldn't finish? Not the end of the world, of course, but it would be a letdown for me and I would feel as well that I was letting down all of those who have cheered me on for past two months and endured my Facebook posts about my progress.
In the end, it was their words that got me from start to finish. "Go in with no expectations." "Stay within yourself." "Have fun."
The first one I didn't fully follow, because I did have the expectation -- or at least the goal -- of finishing in under 40 minutes. That seemed like a reasonable expectation, and I would have been disappointed if I hadn't met it.
"Stay within yourself." That one came in very handy right from the start. Feeling antsy before the race, I did a quarter-mile warmup. That was my chance to find myself and find my pace.
"Have fun." There was one point on "the hill" when it didn't feel fun, and I was battling myself to not give up. But overall, it was a tremendously fun experience, and one that I'll always remember.
A friend of mine, whose husband I work with, ran the race with me, and it was her first 5K as well. It was really just the day before that we both decided to run it, and her enthusiasm and excitement were infectious.
When it really got fun was the last half mile or so, when I was still feeling strong and knew I was going to make it.
My time: 37:22. I was one of the slower runners in the field, but I met my expectation and have a benchmark now for the next one in Waterford, Maine, on Oct. 16. That was going to be the first one, but I was ready to go and this race -- which is smaller -- seemed like a good place to start.
This is probably something that runners aren't supposed to measure, but I passed five other runners. One was in a wheelchair; one was in his 70s; one pulled up lame with a leg cramp; and one appeared to be even more of a beginner than me.
My one what I would consider "legitimate" pass was a woman who was well in front of me but seemed to lag on one of road inclines in the last mile or so. By then I had conquered my own hill "barrier" and was headed for home.
Putting aside my own selfish competitiveness, I reminded myself later that the people I passed were doing their best, just like me, and competing against their own barriers and obstacles: age, injuries, inexperience, hills. There really is a unity among runners, from the fastest to the slowest.
As I neared the finish line, one of the fastest runners in the field -- who had finished 20 minutes earlier and probably had time to eat lunch and take a nap -- made a point to say "great job."
The husband of one of the slower runners was stationed along the course to take photos of his wife. He said the same thing to me as I passed him early in the race. "Great job."
Two simple words, but they meant a lot. I thanked him and then found myself smiling into the blue autumn sky.
About 15 minutes after I finished, I began walking back to meet my wife in the final leg of her walk. I rounded a small building near the school track, where the race started and finished, and the elderly runner was coming toward me -- sweating, laboring, but still running.
"Alright!" I blurted out instinctively.
That was my way of saying, "Great job!"
I never passed him, after all. I'll be trying to catch him for the rest of my running life.
I was browsing the blogs on active.com the other and came across one that caught my eye. It was entitled "I am a runner," and it was by a woman who had brain surgery nine months ago and had just completed her first 5K.
It wasn't just the individual accomplishment that touched me. It was the family involvement -- crossing the finish line with her husband at her side and other family members close behind.
All starting runners have their obstacles, I guess. Some are mental, some are physical, some are both. But few are as enormous as brain surgery. You can't help but be inspired by the determination that it obviously took for this woman to go from the operating table to a 5K in nine months.
My obstacles, my comparison, are puny. I just needed to stop being lazy. There's nothing physically wrong with me. I weigh a little more than I want to, but I'm not terribly overweight. I've never been a runner, but I've been active in the past. Used to exercise regularly. I played racquetball, and swam.
But in the past couple years I had fallen out of any real exercise regimen. I'd get a burst of inspiration now and then and vow to start again, but it didn't last long. I just lapsed into complacency. I wasn't exercising, and I was eating way too much junk. Cape Cod sea salt and vinegar potato chips have no chance when my resistence is down.
I was, certainly by my personal standards, lazy and out of shape. And that laziness was the only real obstacle I had to overcome when I started running. There was nothing else in my way. No other excuses that I could call on when I didn't feel like getting out of bed in the morning.
I'm lucky. Laziness is a pretty easy obstacle to clear compared to brain surgery.
When I first started running, I was using a nearby high school track. It was August, so maintenance crews were always about, getting the grounds ready for the school year.
Most mornings there was a garden hose stretched across the track on the fourth turn for watering the infield, which is the school's football field. I joked with my wife that the hose was my high hurdle.
After reading this inspiring blog from a true survivor, I realize that it really was.
I don't really think in terms of Ks when I'm running. I'm still a mileage guy. But 5K sounds so impressive.
Actually, this is a pretty big deal for me, as I'm sure it is for all starting runners.5K is a runners' milestone -- the first goal that most of us set, the first race that most of us run.
I'm still more than a month away from my first race, and the the fact that I've already hit the 5K -- or 3.1 miles -- is pretty amazing to me.
It seemed so distant when I first set the goal of competing in a 5K. I knew I had two months to work up to 3.1 miles, which seemed a little rushed but doable.
My first run was less than a quarter mile. My second one, which seemed at the time like a decent accomplishment, was a full quarter mile.
I inched my way toward 3.1 at a pace I was comfortable with, but still pushing myself a little -- antsy to make progress.
It's interesting now to look back on the progression: less than a quarter mile; a quarter mile; two quarter miles with walk in between; two quarter miles put together; a half, quarter, quarter for a total of 1 mile; 1 mile non-stop; 1.2 miles plus .9 miles with walk in between; 2.1 miles non-stop; 2.4 miles; and today, 3.1.
All of this in a span of about three or four weeks.
This feeling of progress and accomplishment is I guess what drives all runners. And I'm actually starting to feel like a runner now. When I started out, I was running but I wasn't a runner.
I don't think it's a certain distance -- like 5K -- that marks the crossover. It's commitment. It's getting out there three or four or five days a week and doing it. It's making it important enough to find the time.
The distance milestones -- 1 miles, 2 miles, 3.1 miles -- simply measure the commitment.
I thought I would feel this amazing elation when I finally reached 3.1. But mostly I was just pooped. There was totally no fanfare to it, even in my mind. I thought at least Betty would be at the finish point, but she was walking and ended up behind me.
My "training" goal leading up to the race is actually 3.4. I want to give myself a little bit of a physical cushion. I'm sure I'll be doing the 3.4 within about a week, and then I still have plenty of time to just get better and stronger and faster prior to the race.
That's the cool thing about running. There's always another goal.
I've only been running for three weeks, but I'm way ahead of the curve when it comes to my attire.
This morning for my run, I put on new socks, new shorts and a new shirt -- all to go with a new pair of shoes that I had already worn a couple of times.
These aren't ordinary socks, shorts and shirt. They're dry wear -- made of materials designed to absorb moisture and keep you dry when you're running. This keeps you cooler on warm days and warmer on cool days. I think that's the idea, anyway.
But I didn't feel dry or cool when I finished my run this morning. It's a warm September 1st, and I worked up a pretty good sweat on my 2.1-mile jaunt. The new shirt didn't hurt, but I'm not exactly sure how it helped either.
On top of that, its fit shows all the flabby contours of my body. Hopefully I can sweat some of that off over time.
But -- and this is totally by accident, really -- the teal shirt matches the color of my new iPod Shuffle. And the shorts actually have a special place in the back for an iPod or MP3 for those of us who want to listen to music while we run.
How Roger Bannister ever broke the four-minute mile without all of this is really beyond me.
It was two weeks ago that I decided to commit myself to a 5K race in mid-October in Waterford, Maine.
The first day of "training," I ran less than a quarter of a mile.
Yesterday I ran 2.1.
Just me and my iPod and a late-summer breeze.
I never imagined that running 2.1 miles could be so much fun.
I also never imagined that I would be running 2.1 miles in just two weeks.
A friend at work told me when I started that I could probably already run 3.1 miles -- that it just wasn't as far as I thought it was.
I didn't want to try that and risk injuring myself in some way, but his words gave me the confidence right out of the gate that 3.1 miles was very much within reach -- even for me.
Sister-in-law Anita set me on this course. She started running last August, and ran the 5K in Waterford two months later. She was proof that it could be done. And she was enthusiastic in her insistence that I could do it too.
And that I should.
I knew I needed the exercise. But more than that, I needed the goal. Anita gave me a goal.
So this little blog is on my preparation for my first 5K.
There are about seven weeks to go. I'm encouraged by my progress to date. But running is still not easy for me. It takes mental and physical willpower -- more some days than others.
But the feeling afterwards is so worth it.
And the anticipation of that feeling of crossing the finish line on Oct. 16 is ample motivation.
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