Miracle on Ice

“After all, I don’t see why I am always asking for private, individual, selfish miracles when every year there are miracles like white dogwood.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

During the 18th and 19th centuries the Wissahickon Valley was home to dozens of mills and factories. Edgar Allen Poe and John Greenleaf Whittier sought solitude along the banks of the Wissahickon Creek while industrialists and their families sought refuge in the splendor of the park. Today it is a playground for outdoorsmen, equestrians, runners, cyclists and lovers. It is where I run most days of the week, and the past several weeks it has been covered with snow and ice.

Overlooking the Wissahickon Creek.

Overlooking the Wissahickon Creek.

This time last year I was in the midst of a four-month hiatus from running after injuring my hip from a fall on the ice. It was the longest rehab I’d gone through my entire life–longer than any of my three knee surgeries. Needless to say, these days I am a bit more attentive to my footing while running on the ice.

There are several precautions I take that have been effective in remaining upright when the surface is slick (for the most part anyway.) First, is deliberate footing–keeping my eyes ahead my pace and planning two or three steps in advance. I try to land on the un-iced tips of rocks, stone or even brush. Soft snow is also good for traction, but you have to be careful it’s not covering ice (this takes diligence and time to perfect.) I try to land as soft and flat-footed as possible. I find the more foot that hits the ground the better my chances that part of it will land on a firm surface.

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There are times it seems the ice covers the trails, even where it is cleared from the hills and valleys. My running parter and guide, Bella, has the advantage of four paws, yet the Wissashickon has been so treacherous this winter there have been times all four legs have gone in different directions. It’s hysterical to watch, and I would have filmed it had I not been trying to keep from sliding down an embankment and into the creek.

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Some trials are icier than others. The two below are ice skating rink quality leaving no option but to proceed with care.
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Forbidden Drive, on the other side of the creek from the trails was an ice skating rink at sundown. photo

To end our run we took the high trail, crossed the field by the stables and watched the horses out for an afternoon stretch and dinner. This guy was particularly curious.

photoSo if you are out and about running, walking or just goofing off, be careful on the ice and watch your footing. It’s better to go slow and remain injury-free then to spend time nursing injury.

 

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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17 Responses to Miracle on Ice

  1. Sophie33 says:

    What cool pictures! Your dog is a real city too! 🙂 There is a whole lot of ice where you live!

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Bella is my scout. She loves the snow and ice, and jumps into the creek no matter how cold it is. It’s funny to watch her run with icicles hanging from her coat.

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  2. LB says:

    Beautiful images and sound advice, Jim.
    I was out shoveling today in the 40 degree temps, but tomorrow it will be 20 and icy again.

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  3. runner500 says:

    What do you run in Jim when it is icy? Do you use spikes? I am always very wary on the few occasions we get conditions like that in London.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Funny you should ask. A buddy of mine has spikes and I’m always making fun of him, yet I’m the one who spent four months rehabbing a hip injury caused by a fall on the ice last year. The other night Bella and I were walking trails which were solid ice and a runner came motoring up from behind and blew past us wearing spikes, so I’d say they are pretty damn effective. Seems I always wind up buying stuff that I’ve laughed at others for having.

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      • runner500 says:

        I will only run in icy conditions in my cross country spikes, but the down side with them is that they don’t really provide enough support for longer icy runs. However, I was chatting with a friend from my running club on-line at the beginning of the year who was asking for advice for his son who runs in colder climes he had found a Salomon hybrid that had trail studs but with spikes too. But as the spikes didn’t seem to be replaceable like XC spikes, which wear down really quickly, they didn’t seem that good an option and we didn’t find anything else. Maybe there are more options available in the USA?

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        • Jim Brennan says:

          Thanks for sharing the info. I don’t have personal experience with spikes, but my buddy likes them and like I said about the guy who passed me the other night, he was flying and it was an ice skating rink. I get online Outsider Magazine. Next edition that comes I’ll check it out and share.

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  4. Thanks for sharing. Looks like you have quite a resilient training partner.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Bella will be 70 this summer (in dog years.) She’s a trooper and in great shape for her age. If I run 10, she runs 20 going off course, up and down hills and jumping in the creek.

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  5. Joey says:

    I busted ass hard on a patch of ice coming down a hill the other day on my run. Definitely made me slow down and be more attentive

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Yeah, it’s always when I’m running complacent, not paying attention that a rock jutting out of the ground or patch of ice takes me down. It definitely wakes you up.

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  6. This looks absolutely amazing, Jim. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. shawnasob says:

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing

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  8. OmniRunner says:

    Still looks very nice there. Must be awesome in the summer.

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