Associate Professor of Economics Charles Steele went for a six and a half mile run last Wednesday in minus 13 degree weather, saying it “wasn’t even close to the coldest weather I’ve run in and I didn’t find it particularly challenging.”
Despite warnings from the college administration about last week’s cold weather, several students and faculty members, including Steele, were not deterred from outdoor recreation and exercise.
Steele said he’s training for a 100-mile run in September. Normally he runs only five miles on Wednesdays, but the cancellation last Wednesday allowed him to run longer. The temperature was not a problem at all, he said.
“To me, these were not very difficult conditions,” Steele said in an email. “I have done several 20 mile runs in temperatures around minus 20 degrees … I’ve developed various techniques and strategies for running in subzero, and it’s possible to do this comfortably.”
Calling the idea of windchill “hokum pushed by the media for drama’s sake,” Steele said he was surprised at how fearful people were over subzero temperatures.
“I think too many people allow themselves to be whipped into fear over weather. The news media needs drama to sell, and so tries portraying everything as an existential threat,” Steele said. “Pfft. Some of my most beautiful experiences of the natural world have been in subzero temperatures.”
Steele said his coldest run was in minus 29 degrees Fahrenheit, and he actually prefers running in the cold.
“Extreme cold brings extreme beauty, and I’d miss it if I stayed home whimpering,” Steele said. “So I embrace it.”
Several cross-country athletes trained last week as well. Senior Allysen Eads described last week as “crazy,” saying they wore multiple layers — two layers of leggings, three sweatshirts, and two pairs of gloves.
“We braved the cold and our eyelids froze shut and my teammates and I would periodically exhale on each others’ eyes to unfreeze them,” Eads said. “At the end, our eyelashes were frosty and our eyebrows looked gray.”
At least one student experienced the dangerous effects of the cold. Freshman Soren Moody went to the hospital last Tuesday morning after getting frostbite on his feet. Moody said he and some other students had been playing “Thatcherball” Monday night, in which points are based on the amount of clothing a player is not wearing.
“I just decided, ‘Hey, it would be a good idea to take off my boots and go barefoot,’” Moody said. “I’m faster, I’m more agile, great all around.”
Moody said he didn’t feel anything, and what made him go inside was not his frozen feet but the sight of his hands getting frostbite and turning different colors. He noticed the state of his feet only when he was trying to warm them by the fire in Grewcock Student Union. By morning, his feet were still in pain, so he asked his roommate, freshman Jon-Luke Hawk, to drive him to the hospital.
Hawk said once he got a call from Moody, he immediately got his car out of the snow and drove Moody to the emergency room.
“I was happy to help him,” Hawk said in an email. “I mean, what are friends for if not to look out for each other?”
After waiting 30 minutes, a nurse came in for a quick look.
“The nurse proceeded to explain that frostbite and burns are categorized in much the same way, three levels of danger. Soren was lucky enough to only have the first level, called, ‘frostnip,’” Hawk said.
Moody said he would not do it over again if he could.
“I was lucky, stupid, and frostbitten,” Moody said. “I think the other team won. So it wasn’t even worth it.”