My sanity was questioned several times last week. That may be a routine occurrence, but it is only brought directly to my attention during the coldest days of the year when, despite the low temperatures, I persist in going for a run. I try never to let weather be an excuse for not running (which is my Rule of Running #1). Living in the Pacific Northwest, deciding not to run outside in bad weather is roughly equivalent to deciding to stay indoors, possibly forever. While the bad weather in these parts is generally rain-related, last week was near-freezing and required me to don my winter apparel.
On cold days, I wear, along with socks and shoes, two shirts, a windbreaker, cold-weather headband, gloves, and shorts. The ensemble is a visual medley of grays and black, like a great battleship navigating the frosty sidewalks. The shorts are another reason my mental health is called into question, not because of the color, but the length. Most of my colleagues, runners and non-runners alike, cannot understand why I don’t wear long pants to run in cold weather. It is a matter of masculine hubris. Since I began my running life more than 20 years ago, I have long prided myself on running bare-legged, protesting the elements, and boldly declaring I am stronger than the storms around me, at least from mid-thigh to ankle. However, as I age, I find it harder to keep up the facade. It was 25º yesterday morning when I headed out for a run with my friend Sally. Fortunately, she had decided on a short route of just four miles. She had tickets to see Rogue One, later that morning and needed enough time to shower. I decided that even four miles in 25º at age 48 was cold enough to warrant long pants, so while Sally watched the entire cast of Rogue One (spoiler) give their lives for the Rebellion, I went shopping for running pants.
The pants I selected meet the basic requirement of providing a degree of insulation from the cold, but they present some challenges:
1. They are tight. Aside from socks and underwear, I don’t like to wear clothing that makes me feel like sausage stuffed in a natural casing. I like my clothes to fit, not encase.
2. They are called “tights.” Tight-fitting nylon pants, even when worn by men, are called “tights” or “leggings,” which I’ve always considered feminine garments, like bras and blouses. I’m not homophobic, but I don’t wear blouses, I wear shirts.
3. They are lurid. As I searched the tag in hopes of finding a product description other than “leggings” or “tights,” I learned that my new pants are “lurid gray” in color. I checked the definition of the word and learned that the first meaning is “very vivid in color, especially so as to create an unpleasantly harsh or unnatural effect.” Since I’ve never considered gray to be unpleasantly harsh, I’m left with the second meaning: “presented in vividly shocking or sensational terms, especially giving explicit details of crimes or sexual matters.” I suppose that relates back to the problem of the tightness of the pants. I will wear shorts over the leggings to cover up the worst of the anatomical crimes these sausage casings commit. At least they are gray, nicely complementing my battleship motif.
All of this will take some getting used to, as do most things associated with advancing age. For example, yesterday I received a package in the mail that represents yet another symbol of my elderliness: new eyeglasses. They are called “progressive” lenses, which sounds youthful, even revolutionary, but, in fact, it’s a euphemism for “bifocals.” My arms are not long enough to hold small text far enough away to be read without corrective lenses that complement those that have compensated for my life-long near-sightedness. In addition to steeling myself against the bitter cold of winter, in the spirit of Dylan Thomas, I am raging against the dying of the (visible) light.
While the tights should help prevent frostbite, I fear the bifocals will add a degree of difficulty to my daily run. By design, the lower half of the lenses is for reading, not looking down at the sidewalk. Perhaps I need to go full-on battleship-mode and download a radar-type app on my phone to scan ahead for potential hazards. With luck, I won’t fall and suffer another classic old-age malady like breaking a hip (thinking of you, Snod. Take care).