Spokane Winter Runners

By Sarah Hauge

Many runners have to force themselves out the door in the winter months, mainlining Vitamin D supplements and longing for shorts, tank tops, and the feel of sunlight on their toned calves. The intrepid, however, thrive in the dark and frigid days of winter, appreciating this season just as much, if not more, than all the others. Here’s some insight from a few runners that fit the latter definition. 

Charles Joy (far right) with his 5 a.m. running group // Photo courtesy of Charles Joy

Charles Joy: “I’d rather run through the worst slush storm you’ve got than run on a treadmill.”

Charles Joy, 45, has been running most of his life, averaging 30-70 miles per week depending on injuries and where he is in his training cycle. Most frequently an early morning runner, he is typically out for his run and back again “well before it’s light,” regardless of the weather.

In winter, he appreciates the cool, clear mornings when the stars “are as bright as they get here in town.” He keeps an eye out for Orion, one of the first constellations he usually notices when it’s finally dark in the morning.

Yes, he said “finally” dark—as in the dark mornings are something he’s been looking forward to all year, which he has. His favorite running season? “Whatever season it is. I’m a runner, I run.” 

What’s his winter running routine? Pretty much the same as every other season, he says. “I get up and go out in the morning, usually joining my running group. If nobody’s running, I run alone.” 

One favorite part of each winter is the first snowfall. “Everybody gets up for the first snow,” he says, noting that on Strava there were about 40 posts in a row on that first snowy morning. There’s something special about having the first tracks out there on a crisp, white morning. But there’s something appealing about an outdoor run any day, says Charles. “I’d rather run through the worst slush storm you’ve got than run on a treadmill.”

Maja Lebon running in the snow // Photo by Jon Jonckers.

Maja Lebon: “There’s a lot of joy to be found in winter running.”

For 38 year old Maja Lebon winter running holds a special appeal. “I think there’s something to love in every season, and I love the constant changing where we live in the Pacific Northwest. Especially in winter, there’s something that’s so good for me about the forced change of pace. The terrain is more difficult. There’s a real shift in mindfulness to pay different attention to what my feet are doing, what the terrain is doing.”

Maja looks forward to evening runs, which give her a good opportunity to transition from the workday into the rest of the night. “My evening runs have been really important to me. I work in mental health, so I’m with people all day and talking, and I have kids, so that’s an amazing pause for me to be with myself, with my thoughts.”

In winter, she often joins Fleet Feet’s Winter Warriors group and likes to take in holiday light displays and explore snowy routes with others. But running after daylight hours is a favorite activity of hers year-round.

“I weirdly love running at night, even in the summertime. I’m obsessed with running when the moon is full enough that it’s bright.” Maja notes that she tries to be smart about where she runs, what she wears, and what she carries for protection. “I think it’s just a really different sensory experience to run in the dark. It forces me to be a lot more aware of what I’m doing, to be present.”             

“There’s something very peaceful to me about it,” she says. “There’s a lot of joy to be found in winter running.”

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