Words & Photos by Stephanie Krist
I grew up in a small New Hampshire town where we were no strangers to the questionable season called winter. Cold, windy & snowy? It was never my favorite combination and the best reason to stay cozy inside. Making friendship bracelets while I watched my favorite movie was my perfect idea of a snow day, but it was inevitable that my mom would eventually kick my sister and I out of the house to go play in the back yard. Getting all my snow gear on was such a process (as dramatized by my sassy little self) and I really hated feeling like a marshmallow, but still my mother insisted we needed to “go get some fresh air” and shooed us off into the cold abyss.
Now that I’ve been a real, less-dramatic adult for a fair number of years, I get why Mom did that. I’ve grown to love the fresh winter air, especially when I can go on a quick run in the middle of a stuffy work day, or when I convince my husband that a chilly weekend hike is the perfect way to explore a little more of our area. Choosing to spend time outside in the winter re-energizes me and, honestly, makes me feel like a true New Englander. And thankfully I’ve perfected my combination of winter gear for every occasion and don’t feel like a marshmallow every time I venture outside.
Last year I joined a local running group west of Boston that is comprised of several hundred seriously dedicated runners who run in all combinations of fickle New England weather. Overcast and 20 degrees? Let’s do it. Windy and in the single digits? Already out the door. The day after a big snowstorm? Obviously! That is actually my favorite time to run - the morning after a good, but not too intense, snowstorm. The bright, fresh covering of snow makes for a really peaceful run. Of course, the non-runners, the cozy-seekers, and, let’s say, the normal population of the world might call it crazy or hardcore. But if you ask me and my runner friends, yes we might still call it crazy, but we’ll also tell you that it keeps us energized, happy and motivated, in a season when sometimes it’s really hard to be all those things.
Running takes physical strength, but it also has a lot to do with mindset. “If you say you can, you can.” My mom told me this all the time, and I didn’t completely understand why until well into my 20s. Now it’s a little mantra I repeat to myself a lot, for many different reasons, but mostly when it comes to running. You CAN run in bad weather. Nothing is stopping you. Yes, running outside in the winter months can be brutal, but if you dress in the right layers and gear, and give yourself a really great pep talk before you head out the door, it’s inevitable that you will do it and it will be an interesting, if not fun, experience.
But then there are the hard days, when personal pep talks have no affect on you. Running buddies were made for those days. Running in the tough weather is a lot more enjoyable when you have a friend or two to go with. The people in my local running group have been such a motivation to me in the last year or so. There have been days when it seems like there’s no way I will get out of the house for a run, but since most of us live in the same area of Metro West Boston, it’s pretty easy to coordinate schedules and go on a run together. In our Facebook group, people are more than happy to share their favorite new trail discoveries or upcoming race information. It’s their great photos of their adventurous running routes or informative updates about the weather conditions that encourage me to get outside, too. And then I do it, and then I remember all the reasons I love it. And then life is a little better.
I met up with a handful of these running friends over the last month to take pictures of them in their elements, flaunting their “no matter the weather” attitudes. They each took me to their favorite area trail and I had a great time making these running portraits of them all. After the photo shoots, I asked each runner two questions: 1) Why do you love being outside? And 2) What motivates you to run even when the weather isn’t great? I wanted to share their answers here with you, in hopes that it might motivate you to explore the wintery corners of New England’s great outdoors.
“New England weather in the winter season is actually great for me. As a runner, my body overheats when the temperatures are in the 70’s or above, so running in the cooler temperatures helps, especially when I want to push myself hard. Having running goals (in my case, a marathon training schedule) is very motivating for me to get outside despite the weather. Getting outside in even the worst conditions gives me a deep satisfaction along the lines of, “I kicked the weather’s butt today!” Because I’m running 5-6 days a week, I feel well acclimated to the conditions and therefore they don’t really bother me in my daily life as much. Taking advantage of the cold, instead of hiding from it, helps those cold months go by really fast!”
- Colin S.
“It’s always been important to me to spend time outside. There is just something really simple and organic about the outdoors that I love. When I’m running outside, I feel like the miles go by faster, even in a storm and snow. I feel like my senses are heightened and I’m able to concentrate on just putting one foot in front of the other. All the daily clutter and surrounding issues are out of my thoughts for those sweet miles.”
- Sophanny M.
“Why do I run outside even in the crazy NE weather? Well, I love the outdoors and I love nature. I can’t survive staying inside all the time! Getting fresh air clears my head. I also love adventures, like exploring new hiking trails and running routes. I can’t stop all of my favorite activities just because there is a little snow on the ground!”
- Ricki B.
“Spending time outside, especially at this time of year when it’s cold and dark, helps me maintain my sanity! I feel inspired and energized when I realize that I’ve dared to go out in it rather than huddling inside! I notice that I view “cold” differently than I used to. It isn’t something to hide away from anymore. Instead, I measure how cold it is and lean into it with the necessary layers. It has created a different perspective on this season I used to dread so much.”
- Suzan C.