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Today is March 19. It’s the last day of winter, which has felt like it’s had a hard time making up its mediorological mind. We’ve had weeks of frigidly cold temperatures, several large dumps of snow, and weeks where the snow melts and it feels like spring is just around the corner.

Now that spring is actually around the corner – according to the calendar, at least – I can claim something I’ve wanted to for years.

I’m a real, honest to goodness, winter runner!

What made it all happen? Was it my desire – voiced every winter when I stopped running as soon as the ground froze – to run year-round? Or when I started contacting running groups to network with other runners? Was it the purchase of layers of clothes or spikes for my shoes? Was it reading the facebook statuses of friends who ran in sub-zero temperatures and desperately wanting to join them?

It was all of these things and more.

For years, I’ve run with my guide dog during the spring and summer and autumn months. For years, it’s been an incredible journey. For years, it relieved my stress and my pain – from a sudden job loss to months of job-hunting to the death of a beloved pet. One day this past January, I was waiting for a taxi (which you do in -35C) and noticed a runner on the path. I wanted to stop them and ask what they used for gear, but I was cold and tired and didn’t want to interrupt their pace. Besides, I’d already purchased pants, a face mask, shoe spikes, and a bright yellow jacket that makes me visible for blocks; I think I wanted the connection more than I wanted to swap gear stories. I’ve been unable to connect with local running groups because of their location (too far) and their speed (FAR too fast). Unfortunately, I think for me, at least right now, winter running is a solitary pursuit. I want to continually challenge my body, to fly with Jenny down the streets of my neighborhood, to feel the burn in my legs and my lungs as I pushed myself to my limits. Even on my own, I wanted the fair-weather journey to continue. I’ve been sidelined by blizzards, illness, and injury, but those can no longer stop me.

I am a winter runner!

I realized I was a winter runner just yesterday. It wasn’t my fastest winter run (a 5K in February) nor the coldest (a -20C run in January that presented tiny ice crystals on my eyebrows), but I think it was my favourite. My shoe spikes cut through the layers of ice and kept me upright. My legs burned as they forced my feet to shove aside the wet, slushy snow. My toes got soaked when the ice cracked beneath my stride and unearthed an inches-deep and very wide puddle. It was a sunny late-morning that would later give way to clouds and more snow flurries, and I felt like the sun had come out just for me, to cheer me on and push me forward. I came home with freezing toes, burning legs, and pants that were soaked halfway to my knees. Jenny shook droplets of water from her hips to her toes, ran upstairs and brought down her tug rope.

I wanted more.

So, now that I have proven to myself that Jenny and I CAN brave the cold… I refuse to allow myself any more excuses. We’re getting out there, hitting the road, and nothing can stop us!