“To Build a Fire”

You may have read Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” in high school; oddly enough, I didn’t encounter it until I took an Aesthetics course in college. It’s worth a read I’d you’re not familiar with it, and you can easily find the full text online. The story details the ill-fated voyage if a man and his dog during the man’s first winter in the Yukon. After falling through ice into water and watching his first attempt at a fire be extinguished by falling snow, the overconfident man is finally betrayed by his fingers, which were too numb to build a fire, so he succumbs to the extreme cold.

My Thursday morning run kind of felt like that.

The temperature was in the 20s and the running gloves I donned are not lined. I wasn’t fatigued and the rest of me wasn’t cold, but I seriously considered turning around at the three-mile point in order to save my frigid digits. Through sheer force of will I managed to postpone my turnaround to just after the four-mile point so my whole run totaled over eight miles. When I got back to Jenny’s I was thrilled to see her car still in the driveway. Although I’d brought keys, I didn’t trust myself to manipulate them, so I banged on the glass to get her attention.

Once inside, my first instinct was to run my hands under warm water. That elicited nothing but pain: a deep, aching soreness unlike anything I’d ever felt. The kind of cold I’ve felt in my fingers after packing and slinging snowballs with bare hands pales in comparison to what I felt this morning.

Always one to take thoughtful care of me, Jenny put a towel and a sheet in the dryer to get warm, and gave them to me after a few minutes when they were nice and toasty. The gentle heat restored my fingers to life and I was able to get ready for work.

I hate running on a treadmill (I get so bored!), but I’m seriously considering it for short runs when it’s as bitterly cold as it was yesterday morning. Running on a treadmill seems like a chore rather than a privilege, so we’ll see how desperate I get to avoid the winter weather.


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