Change of Plans

Like a bear in hibernation, I have not ventured far from my den during these frigid winter weeks. The snow, the sleet, the wind, and the rain in temperatures below zero have effectively confined me to the indoors day after day. Even on workdays, I travel from door to door to door, each with a heater on high. Bears live off of their body fat for the whole winter, and often lose 15-30% of their body weight.


I lived off my pantry. I do not weigh myself; but all of a sudden I noticed my peanut butter disappearing faster than usual, and then I realized that I am not a bear.

Rain, sleet, or snow, I gotta run.

I experienced this I-am-not-a-bear epiphany on Tuesday, and vowed to run the following day.  I made plans to meet my friend, Melissa and do a speed workout at 5:30 in the morning. I woke up before 5 ready to run.

Weather dot com reported 32 degrees with possible showers in the vicinity. Given that the past several weeks had averaged in the teens, I imagined that 30-ish would feel like summer with a pleasant rain. I grabbed a baseball cap, water bottle, and jogged to the corner to meet my friend.

Melissa had just finished scraping ice off her car. I slipped and caught myself as I reached for the door handle on the passenger’s side.

Confused, and more awake than usual for that hour, I tried to figure out what had happened overnight and process what was happening at the moment. Based on the live weather report, neither one of us had envisioned finding a car coated in ice.  Since the roads were not icy, we drove to the track.

The clock marked 5:32 AM when we parked at the closest spot possible. The Pacemakers meet every Wednesday at 5:30, and usually arriving two minutes late means that you will have to catch up almost a quarter lap for the warm-up. This Wednesday, it appeared that there would be no warm-up.

The path leading down to the track sparkled in a menacing sort of way. I hung onto a brick wall with my legs bent at the knee, in beginners skating position, trying to assess the situation. The ice glittered even in the pre-dawn darkness, daring me to go and see. Something rattled and banged, and Melissa and I looked at each other asking “What was that?” I saw a pile of branches violently torn apart, with icicles shooting off like knives.

I turned around, and made my way back, carefully, to the car. After experiencing a glimpse of the walkways covered in ice, we felt relieved to find ourselves safely back inside a warm car.

We also felt defeated. We had come, layered up for the cold and shelled up for the rain, ready to run. On the day that I had vowed to run, I could not.

Melissa declared, “This is officially the first time I could not go on a run when I planned to. Officially.”

Even with metal screws or treks strapped to the shoes, it would have been treacherous to try to run outside in those conditions.

I felt humbled and remembered God’s command in the Holy Qur’an from the chapter titled, “The Cave”:

And never say of anything, “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,” Except [when adding], “If God wills.” And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, “Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct.” 18:23

As we drove home, I found that from the window, the world covered in ice did not look as threatening. It looked magical. Every tree stood like an upside-down chandelier, with thousands of bulbs lighting clear at every barren pore. On my running adventures, I have seen winter beauty: dew on grass; frost on trees; and icicles on stones. Usually the beauty is coupled with grace, a soft performance that you must open your eyes to notice.

The sight I saw today looked neither soft nor graceful. It looked loud and mighty. It shook me up a little bit, and woke me up for good, putting away the winter bear blues, and setting me back on the run, as a way of life.