A few years back I was your typical runner. I enjoyed the sport enough to keep grinding but was getting tired of the impending monotony each time I reached for my sneakers. What has happened over the next few years has been pretty incredible to be part of: this sport has seen a staggering emergence of social run groups, better technology to help us connect with each other before/during/after each workout, and it has become (gasp!) fun.
Back in 2014, when I lived in Vancouver, I helped to start up a running group called the East Van Run Crew. We would meet at a brewery every Monday night, go out for a run around the city and end the evening with a beer or two back at the brewery. We squeezed in a quick workout, and, in a city that is notorious for social seclusion, it gave many an outlet to meet and mingle with some like-minded folks. When I moved to Edmonton, Alberta in late 2016 to work for MEC, I was faced with a whole new set of problems to overcome… the winter.
As runners on the Canadian prairies, we don’t have much to look forward to from first snowfall up until spring race season starts. The weather can drop to near-lethal levels, the sidewalks are skating rinks, and just getting out from under the covers can be a high five-worthy event. So what events led to us hosting an outdoor race in -20° temperatures, in a blowing snowstorm, in an industrial park, in Edmonton Alberta, on the longest night of the year?
Sitting around a post-run beverage this past Summer, we joked about how amazing it would be to embrace our environment and plan something fun for what is infamously known as one of the most depressing days of the year. We’d end 2017 on a high note, give Edmonton runners a reason to stay motivated leading up to the holiday season, and set the groundwork for bragging rights across the city. Something for everyone. Free. Competitive. Unsanctioned. High energy. Amazing.
On the night of the race, I was driving back from Jasper National Park and encountered a large storm about 2 hours west of Edmonton. Sure enough, the same blizzard rolled into Edmonton right as the race was set to begin. What was on track to be a chilly mile race quickly turned into something else… survival.
I fully expected the attendance rate to plummet as the temperatures did the same; but alas, the Edmonton running culture came through when almost every single racer showed up. Most even came early to warm up or help with set-up. (One racer even brought homemade cookies for everyone.) In each of the three heats, the starting gun went off and these desperately cold racers had exactly 1,609.34m to cover before they could climb back into the comfort of their warm vehicles. By the finals, the racers were warmed up and the trash talk was still continuing through merino neck warmers and chattering teeth. Despite the headwind, snowfall and biting-cold temperature, many racers earned themselves a PB. But PB or not, we were all Winter Warriors on that night.
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