Why I went Frick Park trail running in snowfall for the first time in a decade

Asics Gel Flash DS in the snow

Today, New Year’s Eve, I went for my last run of 2012.

It was also my first run (as far as I can remember) in about two months, because of the total destruction of my exercise routine in the last months of the year.

This was also my first real winter run in probably three years, since at some point I had gotten soft and stopped running in winter, despite a failed attempt just a year ago.

Finally, this was also my first trail run in snow in probably a decade. At some point, I had decided that it was too unsafe or uncomfortable to run in the trails in winter when there was snow, mainly because of ice concerns, and when I was running in winter at all, I would choose the roads.

So why the sudden change?

I need to run

I like running, but I haven’t been doing it in the winter. So I decided that I was going to take it up again. More specifically, when I’m on a full, consistent exercise schedule, I like to alternate running with strength training. Today was a “running” day.


I have not worn monotoed shoes for running in well over a year now, since having converted to wearing minimalist shoes such as Vibram FiveFingers and Xero Shoes (formerly known as Invisible Shoes for all outdoor activities in sufficiently warm weather.

But it’s just not practical wearing FiveFingers, even with socks, when it’s freezing outside. So I went down to the basement to look at my old monotoed running shoes to find something to wear.

I found a pair of Asics Gel Flash DS “lightweight trainer” shoes that I was wearing some years ago. The shoes still fit, although my feet have expanded every year in the past decade, so I had to loosen the laces.

No excuses

I remember that last winter I really was intending to do some running outside, but after my discouragement with the FiveFingers experiment, I gave up. “Instead”, I embarked (successfully, actually) on a 100-up running exercise. I don’t regret taking the time to do the 100-up challenge, and in fact, it did wonders for helping me balance out my left and right sides of my body and work on some other things, but in retrospect, I also used it as an excuse not to actually run!

It is too easy, when adding something to your life, to use it as an excuse not to do something else. One way to deal with this temptation is to be conscious that given limited time and energy, if you add something new, you should also deliberately remove something old, instead of “accidentally” losing something old. For example, it is useful to identify a bad habit to get rid of.

In my case, of creating new habits for 2013, I am getting rid of bad habits that include too frequently checking email, reading blogs, etc.

The run

I headed out the door without really knowing what I was going to do. I decided to check out Frick Park to see if it was runnable. If not, I could always go back out to the roads.

It turned out that the trails of Frick were not too bad. The snow was packed down, and although patches of ice existed, they were visible and also mostly easily avoided by running to the side on non-icy snow. So I kept going. I decided that instead of being fearful pre-emptively of bad conditions, I would actually just go and see what the reality was, and if reality hit me in the face, I always had the option of adapting and backing out.

My run followed exactly my “usual” 5-mile run from home down into Fern Hollow and back up. I saw children sledding and sliding around while their parents encouraged and monitored them (one little boy slid down and almost collided with me as I was running). I saw the dogs running with their owners. I also saw two cross-country skiers heading down toward Fern Hollow.

There was some snow falling, not very heavily, but enough to keep hitting my glasses and sticking, with icy spots forming, etc. That reminds me that a decade ago when I did have a habit of running all through winter, I wore contact lenses to avoid this problem.

2013 plans for running

I have no idea how long the trails of Frick Park will be runnable for me, but I don’t need to have an “idea”: I can just continue to go and then back out if I need to. In the past in winter, I would run on Beechwood Boulevard and then into Homewood Cemetery.

To encourage myself to keep up my running habit, I’ve decided to plan on a race schedule for 2013. 2006 was the last year in which I had a semblance of race schedule: I ran in nine races that year. In 2013, I would like to start running in races by late February, if weather permits, and definitely do some in March and onward. I wouldn’t expect to run fast in my first races, but possibly by late March I could be starting to get in good shape for the spring/summer season.


I went for a run because I hadn’t done that in months, and I chose to do something different in order to get over my excuses of the past for shutting down or constraining my running options. I’m excited to be back, and hope to see some of my running buddies at races next year!

(Update of 2003-03-03)

I had some setbacks in running, and ended up not running any races by late February, but did end up deciding in late January, totally unexpected, to run the Pittsburgh Marathon, in order to give myself even more motivation to continue running, then ran in a 5K.

(Update of 2003-03-30)

In late March, I ran my first half marathon in nine years and enjoyed the experience.

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