Birds of a Feather, Part II: Frozen Fanatics

The July Project: Day 28

At the end of last November, in an effort to jump-start a weight-loss regimen that had stalled, I made up my mind to walk twice around the loop at Memorial Park every day for the month of December. November 30 was a Monday, so I started one day early for good measure. The next day, just in time for my “official” December Project kickoff, the weather turned nasty for two solid weeks. December 1, it was raining and 45 degrees by evening. Then a cooling trend set in. By Thursday, there was talk of snow. I woke up Friday morning to moderate flurries.

At first, denial seemed like a comfortable attitude toward the weather. It wasn’t as if I could do anything about it. But a friend called mid-morning to warn me that it would get progressively worse as the day wore on. “If you must go, you should do it soon.” So I bundled up in two or three layers of shirts, a scarf, knit cap, a windbreaker, and my warmest running shorts. I give up the shorts when the weather gets so cold that ice starts to form on my skin, and not a minute sooner.

Snow was beginning to accumulate when I arrived at Memorial Park. There were plenty of parking spaces to choose from. In the course of 6½ miles, I encountered perhaps a dozen other people. Half of those were sightseers. They’d pull off the road, get out of the car, look at the falling snow—and the crazy man in the shorts—for a few minutes, and then get back in the car and take off in search of somewhere warm.

But the other half—those were my tribe! I recognized some of them as park regulars. With one in particular, a man in his late 50s, I’d had a mutual smile-and-nod pact for a year or two. But on that snowy December morning, I looked up to see him coming toward me with a big grin on his face. It felt like the right moment to solidify our bond, so as soon as we were within earshot, I said, “It’s days like this when you find out who’s serious.”

He said, “Hey, I’m from Colorado. This is like a nice spring day.” We shared the laugh and went our separate ways. A mile and a half later, we met again in front of the tennis center. We compared notes on which parts of our bodies had gone completely numb. There was a look of pride and satisfaction in his eyes that felt familiar.

When we were ready to break for our cars, he said, “See you tomorrow?”

I said, “Count on it.”

If you find something you love doing that’s good for your health, your self‑esteem, your sanity, and your spirit, you might become obsessed. It’s okay. You’ll be in good company.

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