Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cold runner: Like most people here, Mr. Chang had no desire to run in -35 wind chill when he first arrived in town more than 30 years ago. “I hated running,” he says. He wasn't keen on the whole town seeing him sweat either. “I was too embarrassed to run in the open like that, so I ran on a treadmill instead.”

On a -38 day in December, his brother finally convinced him he should try it. He overdressed in a heavy jacket and thick mittens, but by the time he'd shed down to an undershirt, he was hooked. Today, he heads into the cold for a run three times a week and sometimes brings upward of 18 people with him.

The hardest part about northern running is overcoming the initial shock of opening the front door. “It's like jumping into a cold pool,” says Corey McLachlan, 30, another avid runner. “Your first impression is to jump right back out.”

I can see how running daily in temperatures that cold can be a soul-destroying experience. A 70-mile week in Toronto with wind chills around -25 tested my limits physically and emotionally. Still, when I was in Whitehorse last winter, the very first thing I did at the end of a 90-hour bus trip was go for a 15-kilometre run in a wind chill of around -40. Once the novelty had worn off, of course, who knows what would have happened.

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