An imperfect season

Running in winter has so many challenges: early darkness, roads narrowed by snowbanks and unpredictable weather.

Today I saw a couple running alongside traffic on a busy road (no sidewalks). They were probably training for the marathon in four months, God help them. As much as my body wants to run in the cool weather, my mind is aware of the dangers. Yet a few hours later I was doing it too, combining my ability to screw things up with a burning desire to get lost.

I should pause here and give thanks that I didn’t get drawn into training for the next Boston Marathon because of last April’s bombs. It really wouldn’t have helped or proven anything — except perhaps my ability to act impulsively. No, I have already secured a place as a volunteer, I’ll let others with more knee cartiledge brave the course. If I were running it, I’d be doing a LOT more of this slushy, un-fun training than I’d like.

Woonsocket turned out to be the unlikely location of today’s snafu. It’s because I wanted to run on the beach yesterday but it was high tide (makes perfect sense, right?) — the longer the urge to run is held in check, the more likely I am to make stupid decisions about where and when to run.

the beach I imagined running on ...

the beach I imagined running on …

versus where I ended up...

versus where I ended up…

So, why Woonsocket? I wish there were a coherent answer. Blame my GPS for sending me to the center of that post-industrial mess when I was trying to get to North Smithfield. I envisioned a run alongside the Blackstone River and had checked the website of the Greenway there that seemed perfect — offroad, a good length (like 10 miles!), not far away, not in traffic..

Instead I was in a disjointed, unsigned area where I could see the river but could only imagine a greenway path. So I went in search. Ended up at a power plant on a dead-end street. Creepy, the perfect setting for a slasher movie. Went the other way and found a park that appeared to mark the beginning of the greenway (hello, maps, has anyone heard of maps??), okay, despite it being an unplowed slushy mess I was going somewhere. Alone. Nobody else around. Earphones, check — yup, I was dumb lost runner bait for anybody who was bored and wanted to steal a smartphone.

The river was attractive here, as long as I didn’t turn too far to the right or left where industrial plants lined the banks.

slushy but not completely unattractive

slushy but not completely unattractive

I turned around at 5km (thanks, Endomondo .. I think I’m addicted) near the really pretty holding tanks shown above.. wouldn’t a little colorful graffiti do those a world of good? I figured I’d try the other direction a bit to add a few miles… but couldn’t find the path that way either. Technically, that doesn’t mean I was lost, right?

there's almost no avoiding it, winter running is wet and dangerous

there’s almost no avoiding it, winter running is wet and dangerous

So I ended up running through Woonsocket’s blighted streets, over blackened snowbanks and through muddy puddles.It was ugly, but I got my miles done. Why do cities have such an issue clearing sidewalks, are they just betting that the temps will go above 40 every few weeks and wipe it all out? Ahh, the joys of winter running. I’m so glad it’s optional this year.

Maybe I’ll return in summer, with printouts of all of the little segments of the greenway that are offered online. No snowbanks then, and a little more daylight to aid in the search. Because I’m a glutton for punishment.

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