Dear people who run in the snow:
We see you. We see the spandex you call pants, your fleece headbands, your tennis shoes.
D.C. is covered in snow. (Not Boston snow, we know, but we’re having a moment, okay?) When there is snow, there is slush and ice. It is slippery. It is wet. It is cold. The rest of us are huddled over in general agony, our knee-high boots turning white with salt, the pockets of our puffy coats stuffed with tissues. But like the summer tourists who don’t know which side of the escalator to stand on, you are a constant annoyance to our commuting — a passive-aggressive reminder of all the exercise we’re not doing.
We’re zipped up and shivering on our ways to work, to pick up the kids, to go on a date with Netflix, and here you you come, running. Outside. In the snow.
On Tuesday, schools and government buildings closed, and you were everywhere.
The guys shoveling snow off the steps of the National Gallery of Art — James, Harry and George — were watching you run past them on the Mall, and thinking what we’re all thinking.
“The only place we running,” says George, bundled in Aeropostale sweatpants, “is running home.”
Here comes one of your type now, headphones drowning out the scraping of George’s shovel, and look at this — he’s actually running, not in the cleared pathway, but in the snow.
“It is the closest thing to running at home,” this man says. “I grew up on the beach. The snow is like the sand.”
He says his name is Al, “just Al,” and he runs off. Al is not alone. Ask these runners why they are subjecting themselves to this slushy excursion, and weirdly often, they end up talking about where they are from. (How very D.C.)
“This really reminds me of Utah,” says Miranda Jones, 19, in black and green spandex.
“I don’t know it, doesn’t seem like that big of difference to me. It’s just colder,” says Chad Yelinski, 24, in a brown Marine Corps Marathon shirt. “Back in Colorado, I was a trail runner. I think it’s just a mental thing, to think, oh this is so different than any other time of year.”
If you get up early enough, Yelinski says, you can see congressmen running along the Mall, even on the coldest of days.
“Senator Grassley from Iowa, I heard he runs five miles every single day. It kind of surprised me to see him, he’s an older guy. But if he’s out there, with a super busy schedule, doing what he needs to do to get a little exercise in probably some of the worst weather days imaginable — if he’s out there running in his 50s, why can’t I be?”
Senator Chuck Grassley is actually 81.
(For the record: Sen. Grassley runs in snow, but not in ice, for safety reasons, his spokeswoman told us. He likes it to be no colder than 25 degrees. He runs three miles a day, four days a week, except on his birthday, when he runs six miles from his townhouse in Arlington to the Capitol, his “home to dome” route. “He’s aware that there are devices to put on shoes to gain traction in the ice,” she said. “But he’s not interested in spending money on those.”)
A show off? Or an inspiration?
Is the will to wrap yourself in stretchy fabrics and plunge your feet in frozen water particles something one is born with? Does it make you a better person?
“It’s kind of like a club,” says Kelsey Aubrey, 22, in a grey crew-neck sweatshirt. “Runners wave to each other, and smile. People don’t do that when you’re just walking around.”
Okay, okay, but when you’re just walking around, you’re also a lot less likely to slip and fall. And break something! Didn’t you see this viral piece of snow-runner-shaming? A woman named Chelsea is interviewed about running in a Portland snowstorm, and says:
The interview ends. . .
And then. . .
Doesn’t that hurt you just to watch? (Chelsea gave an interview to Deadspin: She is uninjured, unless you count a bruised ego.)
James, Harry and George hadn’t yet seen any runners fall on Tuesday. Even when they do fall, they say, even when the temperatures are in the single digits, they always come back.
“Every day,” Harry says. “Doesn’t matter what the weather, they’re here everyyyyday.”
George pushes the icy powder off yet another stair. He has about three hours of work to go. He looks out on the Mall and holds up his shovel and delivers his own message to the people who run in the snow.
“You really want a workout? I’ll tell you how to burn some calories,” he says.