In the winter, believe it or not, some folks stay outdoors while the rest crawl back inside. There’s the surfer who paddles through ice cream headaches to ride empty waves. The runner who primes her lungs for the Boston Marathon while ice thaws under her feet. The fisherman who finds massive fish in frozen ponds. Sure, they wear thicker layers and more of them, but to these three Cape Codders, cold is just a four-letter word.
The calendar might say winter starts on December 21, but for Janet Kelly, it’s more like mid-November. That’s when the mittens come out—the mittens that she wears for the first 20 minutes of her run, then longer as the season digs in, to fight off the biting winds. The wool hat can wait until December. The mittens always come first.
Twenty years ago, Kelly quit smoking and took up running. Now, at 63 years old, Kelly is a member of the Cape Cod Athletic Club Hall of Fame with 16 Boston Marathon appearances and countless half marathons on her athletic resume. Spending her winters running on a treadmill is out of the question, she says. “On a treadmill, you either see nothing, or a TV set. I just like being outside in the wind and the sun and the elements.”
Instead, she logs up to 40 miles each week running around her Orleans neighborhood. Four or five days a week, Kelly dons Brooks Adrenaline sneakers, tights, a lightweight turtleneck sweater and turtleneck shirt, wool hat, plastic sandwich bags over her socks if it’s really cold, and—of course—mittens, and heads out her door. Among her favorite routes is the “sea-to-shining-sea” run from her home near Skaket Beach to Nauset Beach, detouring down the side roads that can boost her distance above 11 miles. And on Tuesday nights, she heads south to meet up with a group of runners who trace the same route as the Chatham 10K. “When it’s over, we stand around in the parking lot hot and sweaty, and it’s like, ‘Boy, did you feel the wind over on Shore Road?’ It just always makes you feel good [to know] that you were out there and other people are sitting at home doing nothing.”
Running through the winter is license to eat without restriction, to enjoy holiday feasts without the hangover of a New Year’s diet. Piling up mileage in January and February is also a requirement as Kelly prepares for her next Boston Marathon in April. But more than that, running is a routine that the elements can’t vanquish, whether it’s the hottest day of the year or the coldest. Running in inclement weather can actually be an attraction—“It’s kind of like it’s my badge of honor,” Kelly says. She recalls trotting through a torrent of sleet in Chatham once, when a car pulled alongside and a passenger rolled down the window. The passenger asked Kelly if she was sorry she had come out. To Kelly, there’s no place she would have rather been.
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