There are favourite runs you look back on years later, and in a way they define you as a runner.
Tonight didn't quite rank up there, but in mid-stride in my winter's first snowy jaunt, it made me remember why I run.
Years ago, before they started clearing the waterfront trails of snow, my winter runs were always a little adventurous. One running memory I conjured tonight -- while the snow lit the foreground while after-work commuting cars brightened my periphery -- took me back to a midafternoon about four years ago.
Back then, with no snowploughs to clear the running and biking trails, a six or 10 mile run on the waterfront on a snowy day meant you might as well put on some snowshoes.
While it made running hard with the lack of traction, I always imagined myself as a little pioneer, making tracks that I would use on the way back, footsteps that blowing snow would hide, but for an hour or so, it made the next runner's adventure a little easier. It was even more fun when I was forced to run with Yak-Trax, those clip-on cleats. It made running more like playing, and who would argue with that?
Tonight, I passed the snowplough that was to clear the way for the snow-covered trail ahead. It was stalled, loading up on salt. I silently cursed it but minutes later, I was loving making my own tracks. I soon followed the footsteps of another runner. Those footfalls were far apart, suggesting the stride of a taller runner. A few miles melted away while I looked down and played in the snow.
On my way back, the snowplough caught up to me, and I waved to the driver, getting back on the trail he just paved. I raced up the hill, beating the cars slowly inching their way toward downtown. A cyclist approached, avoiding the paved road, opting for snow. He was playing too.
I finished the run faster than I started it, my balance barely there, every step a challenge, on the verge of falling. Those tracks showing a runner at play are probably covered up by now, a route that no GPS entry can do justice.
Oh, and did I mention? Marathon training. It is on.