I wrote this a couple of years ago but oddly enough winter comes every year and I’m still running in it so it’s still relevant. Parts of it were published in iRun magazine. Ironically I had to have a root canal just after the magazine came out.
If you live in Canada and you train year round, winter is a fact of life, and personally if you gave me a choice between doing a long run on a treadmill and having a root canal I would have to think long and hard about the answer.
I have run the Boston Marathon for the last several years. Boston is in April so if you do the math winter running is a definite requirement. There are days when running in winter is really tough but those days are few and far between. I don’t run outside when it’s –40 with the wind chill, I don’t run outside when it’s really icy and I have never done a long run indoors. I am awed by anyone who can for more than 30 minutes on a treadmill.
Running after a fresh snowfall can be absolutely beautiful: It’s just you and the snow, no cars, no noise and everything looks so clean and white. When the sidewalks need plowing I find a quiet street and run on the road. I have run in the middle of snowstorms and although I get some funny looks, the only hazard is the snowplows and they generally stay well away from the crazy lady out running in the snow. (Update: Having just run after a record 51cm of snow in a single day I have to add two points: 1. Snowmobiles can also be a hazard and 2. If its good for snowmobiles its not good for running!)
You meet new people running in winter too. On a snowy winter day I often make new friends and get a little cross training in pushing cars out of ditches. A few winters ago a friend and I were out doing a 32 km run in the snow when a city bus pulled up beside us. The driver opened the door and said, “I saw you guys two hours ago, then I saw you again an hour ago and here you are again now. Are you sure you don’t want a ride? No charge.”
Some suggested rules for winter running:
1. Be Flexible. Look at the weather forecast at the beginning of the week and rearrange your runs around the weather, the longest run goes on the nicest day you have the time to do it on.
2. Stay out of the wind. On really cold days the wind is your biggest enemy . I run circles around neighbourhoods with lots of houses to shelter me from the wind.
3. Dress in breathable layers. Lots of light layers so you can take something off when you get hot. I often have my jacket around my waist before the end of my run.
4. Always have a hat, gloves and something to cover your face. These are a runner’s best friends. They really keep you warm when you put them on and they are easy to take off and stuff in your pocket.
5. Be realistic. Running in the cold uses a lot of extra energy you may not be running as fast as usual but you are still getting a great workout.
6. If its really cold have a bail out plan. Bring a bus pass, or phone a friend.
7. Enjoy it. This is Canada after all!