sports

Ten miles below zero





School had let out early, so the team split up for its daily workout. This time of year the runners are mostly training with slow runs, 7 to 10 miles each day. But inclement weather can make even an easy run dangerous.

“It was cutting into my eyes, I couldn’t see,” Griffin Tichenor, a junior, said. “It was pretty much ice. It just got so thick. You couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you.”

He was wearing shorts, his legs burning from snow and ice as he ran laps around Bryan Park. His body had begun focusing blood flow to his core, away from extremities.

As it gets colder, the body relies more on carbohydrates, depleting energy and using water faster.

On the other side of town, near Gladstein Fieldhouse, Fergus Arthur, another BHSN junior, was caught in the same storm. He was on his own when he realized the snow was so thick he couldn’t see the cars on the road next to him.

“The wind, though,” Fergus said. “It can be negative 5 and no wind is no big thing, but it can be 5 and windy and it bites your face off.”

In the bitter cold of January and the sweltering humidity of August, long-distance runners train all year. They’ll say the offseason is what separates the losers from the winners. This winter has been particularly rough, Coach Charles Warthan said — one of the worst he’s seen.

Yet there’s only been one day this winter when the team opted to run indoors on treadmills.

“I jokingly say if you get cold, pick up the pace,” Warthan said. “It’s a little bit of pride and toughness, as long as it isn’t stupidity.”

So on days like last Tuesday, when the snow was so thick it was hard to keep going straight without slipping, running wasn’t just about staying warm — it was about mental endurance.

In Bryan Park, Griffin’s eyelashes froze together, his hair was weighed down by thick white snow. After 4 miles, for the only time all year, Griffin decided to ditch the run.

“I was pretty pissed,” he said. “But I couldn’t physically do it because I couldn’t see.”
Meanwhile, Fergus was still out running. Dry sidewalks were now buried under fat snowflakes. His face was so numb he thought he had frostbite.

But he was too far from home. He had to keep going.

The ground was slushy, making it hard to take each stride. Even though he was cold and soaked from the snow by the time he got home, 10 miles later, he was that much more prepared for the next run.

“You just gotta accept your conditions and watch your footing,” Fergus said. “It is as much a physical training as it is a mental training. When I get on the track, it’s like I’ve been there before.”

Follow reporter Charles Scudder on Twitter @cscudder

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