We arrived at the west entrance of Staring Lake Park at 9 a.m. and an outside temperature of -9°F. We waved to Erin, who was in the only other car in the lot. Singing along with Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” to pep us up, we finished putting on our hats and gloves and beads. Only once our eyes were the only part not covered by two or more layers did we get out of the car. The creak of the door proclaimed the bitter cold.
“Happy New Year!” we shouted. The four of us, my husband Mike, my sister Toni, our friend Erin and me, were there to embark upon the 12th year of our beloved, if slightly unhinged, tradition of running outside on New Year’s Day. We’ve run other Eden Prairie trails on New Year’s, but this year we chose the 2.3-mile loop around Staring Lake, hoping for some windbreak from the many tall trees.
The air was crispy cold and crystal clear. I squinted against the bright sun and biting wind. We quickly took our “before” picture and set off down the snow-covered path.
In this deep cold, the snow crunched and squeaked underfoot. If I could just keep running, I knew I would warm up soon. Within a one-quarter mile, the chill in my fingers and toes was gone. Years of winter running has taught me that -9°F has nothing on a well-layered body in motion (at least for the 40 minutes we were out there).
Here is what I wore for -9°F with a windchill of -29°F: polypropylene socks, wool socks, running shoes; thin wool base layer, thick wool base layers, snow pants; a fleece top over a thick wool base layer and a big brown coat; balaclava, neck gaiter, running hat, knit hat; running gloves, big heavy-duty mittens; two strings of beads that said Happy New Year.
Erin, Mike and Toni dressed similarly. While we may be a little extreme running in this weather, we don’t mess around when it comes to staying safe and warm. I am always amazed at how much heat my body creates when I’m running. In the summer, that’s a problem, but in chilly winter my body heat keeps me warm and makes me feel powerfully alive in the face of these cold temperatures. Winter weather becomes bearable, even joyous.
As we ran the loop, we passed the sledding hill, the path to the playground and amphitheater, and cross-country ski trails. All the mature trees, oaks and evergreens to name a few, blocked the wind for us. We saw fresh deer tracks in the snow.
We ran and ran, chatting and taking in the winter beauty around Staring Lake. Our moist breath met the cold air and caused ice crystals to form on our eyelashes, hats, and balaclavas. At one point, I blinked and my right eye stayed closed. Initially confused, I stopped running. Then I realized that my eyelashes had frozen together. Neither Toni nor I wanted to take our gloves off, so she gently breathed on my face and melted the crystals away.
We ran past the Outdoor Center and the public water access. Staring Lake was frozen and snowy. We wished a happy new year to two other people out running. One man had a truly spectacular ice crystal-covered beard.
When Mike, Erin, Toni and I completed our New Year’s Day run, we cheered, smiled for our “after” picture and headed home for chatting and hot coffee. Whatever else happens this year, whatever I do or don’t do, I’ll remember that I started 2022 with joy and nature nearby.
Captions clockwise from top left:
1. Before the run. Eden Prairie residents: Toni Knorr, Amber D. Stoner, Erin Strot, Mike Stoner. Photo by Toni Knorr
2. After 2.3 miles on New Year’s Day, 2022. Photo by Toni Knorr
3. Purgatory Creek flows into and out of Staring Lake. Photo by Erin Strot
4. Sun over Staring Lake on January 1, 2022. Photo by Erin Strot
Nature nearby is a monthly column by Eden Prairie resident Amber D. Stoner.