My first week of training has been pretty easy. On Monday I went out for an easy 7 miler. Considering the conditions of the city sidewalks and streets I was a bit hesitant to run. Philadelphia was hit with a snow storm that left many distraught and also amazed. In the 2 years I have lived on the east coast I had not witnessed anything like it. There was serenity, calmness amidst the chaos in the streets. Rittenhouse Square appeared like something out of a post card. Children played and parents chatted among the many busy shoppers. It truly awakened the spirit of the season. For many it may have dampened their spirits bit but for runners there was no holding back. The workouts had to be done despite the conditions.
I set out on my slippery run being very careful not to overdress or under dress. As I read at one point, being too warm in the beginning of a run means one is overdressed; I made sure I was a bit chilly. The streets were empty, as expected and not a single runner crossed my path that night. Perhaps most runners turned onto treadmills or decided to bag the workouts. Most people must have thought I was crazy to be running in the dark, on the icy streets, in some spots having to hurdle snow drifts. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder myself. During my run I was struck with fond memories as a child. The winters in Northeastern Arizona use to be pretty extreme.
It was the winter of 1992, like most winters we were hit with a terrible blizzard. It was like a scene out of Little House on the Prairie. We had several feet of snow that prevented us from attending school for several weeks. My family didn’t have proper transportation and living without running water or electricity made the situation even more difficult. However, these situations never interrupted the warmth of our home. It was during this time that my grandparents would tell the winter stories. In Navajo culture the winter season is the time for stories of origin. It is a season of rebirth, the beginning of a new year and the rejuvenation of life in general. The Navajo culture is very unique because there are ceremonies and rituals that take place in their own appropriate seasons. The winters are filled with stories of creation as the people are geared toward family life and the events that surround their lifestyle. Many games and traditions have emerged from the relationship between the people and the land. Out of the long winters and the seclusion of the reservation has emerged the customs and activities use by the people to entertain and amuse themselves.
We listened to stories of how my grandparents survived an even greater blizzard many years before, when their sheep actually had to be dug out from beneath the snow. Our days were spent melting ice and snow so our animals could drink and often we would melt snow for drinking and bathing for ourselves. My brother and I often had to trek a few miles to my grandparent’s house for vegetables that were harvested a few months before. There were no supermarkets or relief programs; it was each family for themselves. Eventually we returned to school, interestingly enough, there was no transportation to and from school so we rode our horses. I recall my father leasing several of our horses after school and we would all ride back together. This was done repeatedly over the course of the winter.
Reflecting back on this time makes me realized that despite the difficult times my family maintained the traditions and spirit of what it truly means to survive. As I plodded along the icy path along the river I realized that overcoming such difficulties truly puts a new perspective on life. I’m very fortunate to have endured so much and with the support of family and teachings of my grandparents I’m able to face challenges as they come; challenges even greater than a few feet of snow, icy paths or chilly winds. People might think I’m crazy for running in such conditions but it’s those people that neglect to live for the moment.