Saturday, January 28, 2012

Freeze Your Thorns Off 5K Race Report

Day had broken cold and gray, exceedingly cold and gray, when I turned aside from the main trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and I paused for breath at the top, excusing the act to myself by looking at my watch. There was no sun nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry me. I was used to the lack of sun. It had been days since I had seen the sun, and I knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky-line and dip immediately from view.

But all this—the mysterious, far-reaching hair-line trail, the absence of sun from the sky, the tremendous cold, and the strangeness and weirdness of it all—made no impression on me. It was not because I was long used to it.

I plunged in among the big spruce trees. The trail was faint. A foot of snow had fallen and I was glad I was without a sled, travelling light. In reality, it was not merely colder than fifty below zero; it was colder than sixty below, than seventy below. It was seventy-five below zero. Since the freezing-point is thirty-two above zero, it meant that one hundred and seven degrees of frost obtained.

I held on through the level stretch of woods for a mile, dropped down a bank to the frozen bed of a small stream. I held steadily on. I was not much given to thinking, and just then particularly I had nothing to think about save beating The Manly Runner, as I had beaten him so oft before.

Once in a while the thought reiterated itself that it was very cold and that I had never experienced such cold. As I ran along I rubbed my cheek-bones and nose with the back of my mittened hand. I did this automatically, now and again changing hands. But rub as I would, the instant I stopped my cheek-bones went numb, and the following instant the end of my nose went numb. I was sure to frost my cheeks; I knew that, and experienced a pang of regret that I had not devised a nose-strap of the sort The Manly Runner wore in cold snaps. Such a strap passed across the cheeks, as well, and saved them. But it didn't matter much, after all. What were frosted cheeks? A bit painful, that was all; they were never serious.

A certain fear of death, dull and oppressive, came to me. This fear quickly became poignant as I realized that it was no longer a mere matter of freezing my fingers and toes, or of losing my hands and feet, but that it was a matter of life and death with the chances against me. It struck me as curious that I could run at all on feet so frozen that I could not feel them when they struck the earth and took the weight of my body. I seemed to skim along above the surface, and to have no connection with the earth. Somewhere I had once seen a winged Mercury, and I wondered if Mercury felt as I felt when skimming over the earth.

Freeze Your Thorns Off 5K
How did you do, oh Manly Runner?

Adapted without permission from Jack London’s “Build a Fire.

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  1. good thing you didn't freeze your cheeks off :)

  2. I didn't know Jack London was a runner..
    And a fast one at that!! 4 minute miles for 3 miles?

  3. Never mind....
    I had to go look at what this race was.... virtual.... and Jack wasn't there? Isn't he dead? :)

  4. At least you had a warm day for your run. :) I've decided that if my face gets too cold I won't be too proud to wear my bearded beanie. Unless you were talking about different cheeks...then I don't think it would fit right.

  5. It is closing in on 40° here and my husband isn't home yet to stay with kids while I run. Not sure if I can count it as "freezing", but I intend to do 5K before going out to dinner with girlfriends tonight. :)

  6. Wow that's a fast time Kovas! I think you'll win on speed for sure.

  7. Good piece of writing. How were you able to run that fast while building a fire with one match?

  8. Epic....
    you are now a running legend I think...

  9. @Caroline, definitely a legend in his own mind...

  10. Love it. I was going to write mine as if I had done the race through Candyland.

  11. Pure poetry, just poetry in motion.

    Yeah, what's with that Manly Runner?

  12. Nice job on that, I really enjoyed it.

    Where the heck is Chris K anyway? He just disappeared! Should we massive tweet him or something?


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