No matter what the weather, Paul Cowley keeps on running.
Bone-chilling temperatures. Knee-deep snow. Ice-laden trails.
My co-worker has weathered whatever conditions Mother Nature threw his way.
Paul is nearing the finish line of his third daily running streak hosted by Runner’s World magazine.
The challenge is to run one mile every day starting on American Thanksgiving (Nov.26) and ending on New Year’s Day for a total of 37 days of consecutive running.
The “on again, off again” runner started the streak in 2013 after a co-worker suggested he give it a go.
With a marathon and two half-marathons under his belt, Paul tells me he is not one of those people who lives to run.
“It takes a lot of willpower for me to run,” he says. “It’s not something I immediately consider a fun activity. Hockey, I think is loads of fun. Running is not in the same category.”
So why do a running streak in the dead of winter?
“Partly to challenge myself and largely as a way to stay in shape because I have a very sedentary job,” he says.
“I have read a lot about health. It’s clear that keeping moving is really the fountain of youth.”
The most memorable runs were always the coldest because they were the ones that took the most willpower.
His annual streaking started in the winter of 2013, the year when most of the province was hammered with record snowfalls.
“That first year was super cold and super snowy,” he remembers. “Even by Central Alberta standards it was a brutal stretch. The coldest day I ran -36C without the windchill. It was a terrible winter. It was snowing all the time.”
Yet the veteran reporter and father of two kept streaking.
Once he started running outdoors, Paul was determined to keep the entire streak alive outside. Not once did the 50-year-old step onto the track at the Collicutt Centre.
“That became the challenge,” he said. “The fun part became forcing myself to go out. No matter what the weather was like. No matter how deep the snow was. No matter how cold it was. I was running at least one mile.”
Squeezing in the runs particularly after a long day at work, a bad night’s rest or a night out on the town proved to be the real test.
There were times when Paul got his run in just before the clock hit midnight.
“I remember the first year, one of the coldest runs I did was after spending all night at a friend’s house party,” he said. “I ran at 20 to 12. It was minus 35 or something. I knew I had to get my mile in. I was determined to get a mile in. It was so cold. “
But it is getting easier.
He’s wrestled some IT band issues over the years and so far he’s winning the battle.
“That first year became a point of personal pride,” he said. “I think turning 50 has made me think a lot about how the next 20 or 30 years are going to be. That’s the only way to stay young is to keep moving.”
He said a running streak can be for anyone – young or old or those coming off injuries.
The key, he says, is not to be a slave to your Garmin and to keep it fun.
“The challenge becomes getting out instead of trying to beat your previous fastest mile or whatever,” he said. “For the running streak as long as you get out, you have met your challenge.”
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Next up in #RWR I will share my 12 running resolutions for 2016. Do you have a resolution? You could be featured in my next column.
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