This time of year it is easy to feel good about yourself in Prague. Merely poking your head outside, as the days shorten and the temperatures tumble quickly, is enough to make you feel like a heroic arctic explorer. For those of you who don’t live in Prague (or, quite sensibly, have not ventured outside recently) Prague winter-proper is just around the corner.
This weekend hubby and I went for a long run south along the river. It was a cold day – 2 degrees with a biting wind. I was wrapped up in full length lycra leggings, lightweight gloves, running jacket and snood. Sexy indeed. Despite the hardy-runner garb I was still cold and every time I breathed in my lungs felt like they might freeze on the inside.
However, jogging along in the crisp winter air, keeping up a good pace and enjoying the riverside views down past Vyšehrad and then Branik, I felt pretty good about myself. I enjoyed the fact that I could see my own breath, and that all the leaves on the ground were covered in frost. Pretty. I was even having a little sing-song as I trotted down the river.
To be honest, having dragged myself out of bed on a Saturday morning to force my chilly little legs outside for a long run in the cold, I felt smug. Hardcore. Like a mini-hero.
Just south of Branik (about five miles from home, by which time I was pretty much patting myself on the back for being so hardy), I saw something that made me realise: it really is all relative.
I saw five men, some over sixty, all dressed in speedos and funny rubber shoes, jumping into the Vltava. They then proceeded to swim down the river for about hundred metres only to then jump out, run back along the river bank to where they started and do it all over again. One of these supermen type creatures waved nonchalantly at me as he ran past – as if submerging yourself in near-freezing water and then running around almost naked on a Saturday morning was totally normal behaviour.
I’ve since learned that there are quite a few open-water swimming clubs in the Czech Republic, and several that do not close down for the winter months despite the fact that the average January temperate is minus 7, with much lower temperatures not uncommon.
Lesson learned: However hard-core you are, there is always someone more hard-core than you.
I scurried back home with my tail between my (frozen) legs, feeling a little less pleased with myself. I then spent the rest of the afternoon in front of the TV with a cup of tea and a hot water bottle, like all normal people.
Most of you will know that last week was Armistice Day. Please support the Race to the Pole team led by Lt Col Henry Worsley, who are raising money for the Royal British Legion, and are much, much, more hard-core than me.