The short version is that fitness is made up of more than a healthy diet and exercise - the two assumptions we've long held. The third pillar, according to journalist and anthropologist, Scott Carney, is environmental stress: cold, altitude, heat, humidity, etc.
This makes total sense to me.
It is a recent thing that humans have the technology to counteract or avoid these environmental factors (ex. air conditioning.) Our ancestors had to adapt and cope with the natural elements in order to survive. And the amazing part is that our bodies are incredibly adaptable with practice and exposure.
So wouldn't it be totally logical that when we expose ourselves to these elements, we are strengthening and stretching our capabilities? And wouldn't we seem weaker and less capable if we cannot handle the variations of the environment?
The trick is to reframe our thinking about fitness. Instead of thinking "you're a real runner" because you choose to run in the rain - consider yourself fulfilling a bare minimum requirement if the goal is your fittest state. You are not doing something exceptional; you are doing what you were designed to do, possibly what your body needs to do.
It all seems so simple. And it makes running in the blizzard a little more appealing.
Disclaimer: It goes without saying that you should still be smart and prepared if you decide to run in less-than-ideal conditions; I take no responsibility if you get lost in a snowstorm.