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After two days off from running, seeing a double digit temperature today called for a celebration of the lacing-up sort. We saw more bluebirds and male and female cardinals than I’ve ever spotted in Prospect Park before. I think they were happy for the sunshine and melted snow, digging for food beneath the blanket of leaves long fallen. Best of all was the traction. With the exception of hardened clumps of snow and glassy ice, the trails and loop are dry, which makes all the difference.

A few days ago, my running buddy thought the cold was putting the squeeze on my sanity. Talking in short clips helps moderate my pace and make sure my buddy isn’t pushing himself too hard. Usually labored breathing is the first clue, but it’s harder to hear with a hat or balaclava on, so we have deep conversations:

“I’m thirsty.”

“Me, too.”

The slushier it gets, the less he listens. Attention focuses on avoiding icy patches and I have to repeat myself louder and louder.

“The white people are very slippery.” I said.

He didn’t respond so I said it over and over in rhythm with my stride thinking I’m being helpful, “The white people are very slippery. The white people are very slippery,” expecting him to heed my warnings. “The white people are very slippery. The white people are very slippery. The white people are very slippery.” 

Finally he turns to me like I’m some paranoid stranger. “What the hell are you talking about?” (Pardon his potty mouth.)

“The white people are very slippery. Don’t step on them.” I thought it was pretty clear, but maybe the cold weather running was making his brain a little foggy. So I pointed down at one of the many figures painted white to stand out on the black top, indicating which paths were for walking, running and cycling. I don’t have a picture, but you know what I’m talking about. They’re completely unnecessary, but the park lays it on pretty thick with the signage and paving. Anyway, these painted figures fill in gritty pavement, killing the traction and making it easy to slip.

By the time I realized clarification was needed, he’d already stepped on a dozen of them. It was only a matter of time before he went down and I had to carry/drag him back. Panicked, I jumbled my words thinking if I just repeated “The white people are very slippery” urgently enough he’d magically understand what I meant. The urgency only made me sound crazier. Eventually he caught my drift, but not before we received a bunch of funny looks from slippery white people.

If I ever open an old-timey speakeasy, that’ll be the secret code. Winter running is always a good time.

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