Valentine's Day is so predictable, so why not throw your loved one a curveball by signing up for a 5-mile run during one of the most bitterly cold times of the year? Nothing says "I love you" better than mutual suffering, right?
That will be the mantra of hundreds of devoted runners this Saturday as they wind through Mitch Park as part of the Edmond Running Club's 14th annual Frigid Five. The test of athletic fortitude battles unpredictable weather that, in the past, has dropped below freezing.
Lissa Wohltmann, race director, said the weather was so foul one year that her camera froze, ruining half of the pictures she took that day.
Wohltmann is already a member of a borderline fanatical running group called the "445ers," who wake up every morning at 4:45 a.m. for, what else, a run. They wear blinkers as badges of honor and, like those braving the weather this Saturday, the payoff is supposedly worth the sacrifice.
"It's the serotonin surge. When you go running, you are high," she said. "It's like taking a drug, but it's legal and you meet lots of good people and do this crazy thing together. There is no real reason, aside from just the fun of it."
Events like the Frigid Five are more than shared trials of endurance; they are critical components to running clubs, said volunteer coordinator Clyde Stevens. The benefit, he said, extends beyond just the financial payoff.
"It does provide some cohesiveness and a sense of purpose for the club rather than getting together ad hoc; it gives us a focus for our membership to participate," Stevens said. "It also gives us an opportunity to give back to the community."
It's never too late to take up running, he said. Edmond Running Club is always on the lookout for novices that want to start training. Wohltmann said that running is surging in popularity as adults look for ways to remain athletic throughout their lives.
"Golf used to be the thing, but now it is running," she said. "The hardest age group to compete in is 45-60 " those are tough guys."
A runner need not possess great speed, either. Stevens describes himself as a "back of the packer," meaning he's bringing up the rear in most races. Because the sport is more a battle against oneself rather than other runners, it is an accessible sport for anyone healthy enough to jog.
But before signing up for that marathon, Stevens said it is best to ease into running.
"Start slow," he said. "There are good training programs out there for new runners, and the best technique I've seen is to just go out and walk an hour. As you speed up and add running to it, hopefully you will eventually be able to run most of that hour."
No need for chocolates and roses. Take your loved one out for a brisk run on Valentine's Day. They'll surely thank you, or at least forgive you. And don't worry about breaking land speed records, the race volunteers will be patient.
"We'll have runners who might take up to an hour and a half," Stevens said. "But the race stays open as long as we have someone out there." "Charles Martin