In the United States a phenomenon occurs that we call “Winter.” For those of us in the northern part of the US, Winter consists of cold temperatures, snow, ice and wind. Here in West Virginia, Winter has been reoccurring for as long as I can remember. And after reading the history books, it sounds like Winter has actually been around these parts for centuries. Nevertheless, people still seem to be amazed when Winter hits, especially when it hits in its fullest fury. Schools close, church services are cancelled, roads are impassable, wrecking crews make boocoos of money, and snowmen emerge from the drifts. But just because it’s snowing and blowing outside, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the fun has to stop…. people find fun ways to enjoy Winter with ice skating, sled riding, snow skiing, snow boarding and snow tubing. And for us runners, there is Snow Running.
Don’t confuse that with “No Running”… it’s “Snow Running.” Last Winter was my first time trying out Snow Running, and I fell in love with it one the first run. There’s just something so peaceful and immaculate about being a part of a wintry landscape. The air is brisk and clean; frigid to the nostrils and lungs…. the sound of snow crunching under each step creates a rhythmic echo that breaks the solitude of the landscape…. the sunshine reflecting off the snow is blinding to the eye but warming to the heart…. the feelings, sights and sounds of Winter is almost indescribable and nothing like any other season.
Winter is a sight to behold, physically, mentally and spiritually, but it requires some precaution and extra preparation for Snow Running. After experiencing running in these elements myself, and researching it through other blogs, fellow runners, virtual running groups and etc., I thought I would share some of the strategies I use to have successful Snow Runs.
I run a lot on narrow country roads where there’s not much (if any) berm on which to run. Sometimes, there’s absolutely nowhere to go if one car is coming, nevermind if there are two cars passing each other. So I have to really consider if and when it’s safe to even run on these roads. If you run on/next to roads, you have to consider the ability of drivers to maintain control of their vehicles when passing you. If there’s a chance they can lose control and wreck, or you’re not able to get out of the way quickly and safely, then you may want to consider a different route that’s safer, or an alternative such as the treadmill or an indoor track. If you run on sidewalks, remember to keep an eye out for ice, and be leery of the possibility of ice hidden under snow. Slipping and falling onto hard concrete could put a quick end to your running.
DRESS THE PART
Consider the temperatures and dress accordingly. Dressing in layers allows air to be trapped between layers that will actually help insulate you from the frigid temps. Plus, if you get too warm, it makes it easier to take off a layer. Personally, I think it’s just as bad (if not worse) to be overheated, than it is to be too cold. Keep your hands, ears and toes well covered and insulated. The greatest percentage of heat goes out the head, so wearing a hat will help keep you warm. Although I haven’t tried it yet, I know a lot of runners who wear balclavas to keep their face warm and help with their breathing.
Speaking of hats, one thing I always do when it’s snowing is wear a baseball cap with a bill to keep the snow out of my eyes and block the wind from my face. If it’s cold, I’ll wear a head band around my ears to keep them warm. I hate when my ears get cold.
DITCH THE MUSIC
I love to run with music…. I run with it almost all the time, even races. But there are two times that I ditch the music… at night and on bad snowy days. I don’t listen to music at night because I want to listen for possible attackers (both men and animals) because I can’t see them as well. When Snow Running, especially along roads, it’s important to keep an ear open to listen for traffic. At the very least, wear only one earbud in the ear that’s away from the road keeping the ear next to the road open so you can hear better.
Although I recommend ditching the music, I recommend carrying your cell phone with you. You never know when you may need help, and having the ability to call someone is convenient and smart. When it’s cold, however, keep in mind that cell phones will freeze up and shut down. I carry mine in a pocket or in a belt that’s under a layer or two of clothes and close to my body to keep it warm. I’ve been able to carry a cell phone and keep it on over the course of a half marathon by using this tactic.
It’s nearing the end of January and I’m missing a very, VERY valuable part of the Snow Running gear…. traction cleats for my shoes such as YakTrax. These cleats will help your run better by giving you more improved footing which will increase your overall pace, but it they will also keep you from slipping, sliding and falling. I slid around a lot today during my 4-mile Snow Run and wished the whole time I had some cleats. I had a pair last year and loved them, but they have disappeared over the summer. I guess I’ll be hitting the local running store soon to get a set.
SAVOR THE MOMENT
Above all else, enjoy your Snow Run. Unless you live in the southern hemisphere or the North Pole, you only get to experience Snow Runs in the Winter months. Although it can feel like forever to those who are Summer-lovers, Winter really only lasts technically three months with just a few weeks of actual Snow Running weather. Being outside when the temps are in the high-20s to low-30s, snow flakes the size of pancakes are wafting down, the tree limbs are dressed in the soft white snow, and the sky is a brilliant blue is amazing and awesome…. so savor the moment, drink it in and ENJOY your Snow Run.
I had a wonderful time today on my Snow Run in my Winter Wonderland today, and am looking forward to a nice long 10-mile run tomorrow in even more perfect, pristine wintry elements. I hope you can get out there to experience Snow Running as often as possible. It’s definitely unforgettable.
What is one of your most favorite Snow Running experience?
Do you have any other tips for comes to Snow Running?
A few months ago, I saw a post on Facebook where someone posted a question about training for an upcoming race. It’s been a few months ago, so I can’t remember it word-for-word, but I remember the post was made during the week and their race (I think their first 5k) was that Saturday. So this new runner mentions that they had been doing all their training on the treadmill, and wondering if they should get a run outside done before the race. I kind of cringed when I read their question, as I couldn’t imagine doing all of my training inside, then trying to complete a race…. nevermind competing.
This old post came to my mind this morning during my long run. It was a unique long run for me as it’s Sunday morning, and I have never ran on Sunday morning before. I have always made my Sunday morning priority going to church. I haven’t even run a race on a Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon….. but not Sunday morning.
I got to run this morning because we had cancelled church due to the weather. It was really putting down the snow and the roads were hideous!! On top of that, the forecast was calling for the snow to turn to sleet around noon. So to keep our parishioners safe, my husband who happens to be the pastor, cancelled services for the day. So I decided to take advantage of the extra two hours and go for my long run early.
I ended up running in quite challenging conditions…. I took off at 10:00am with temps around 32 degrees and large snow flakes falling. I was trudging through six or more inches of snow, but it was beautiful. Then around 10:30am…. the wind kicked up, temps raised about 3 degrees and the sleet started. Although I was warm, I was getting wet. And on top of that, the snow was getting heavier making it harder to plow through. It had rained the day before and froze under the snow, so my footing wasn’t good either. (Note to self…. order those Yaktrax!!)
When the weather started turning bad, for a fleeting moment a thought flew through my head to call it quits. But then I remembered I have a half marathon on January 5th…. only four weeks away. And the chances that I’ll face these exact same conditions, if not worse, is very high. So I trudged on, considering this the perfect training opportunity to prepare for wintry elements. These were conditions I could never simulate in my home gym on the treadmill. And it builds my confidence as now I know I can handle the long distance in the cold, snow and sleet.
So what’s my point? Running on a treadmill meets its purpose when necessary, but it’s also important to train in all the elements…. cold, hot, humid, dry, rainy, snowy, sleeting, windy, flat and fast, hilly, early morning, afternoon, night, and whatever else God might throw your way. If you’re going to race, you gotta be prepared for anything and everything. Well… at least as much as possible. Just remember, always keep safety top priority. It made the run harder, but I kept my run this morning on all back roads that were traveled very little or not at all. The main roads were too dangerous.
I’m glad I didn’t quit early and finished my 8-mile run this morning. I was cold and wet when I got home, but I was exhilarated!! It was worth training in the elements as now I’m one run closer to being prepared for my half marathon…. rain or shine!! 😀
Do you agree with me? Can you complete all of your training on a treadmill and be successful in a race? What are some of the worst conditions in which you have run to prepare for a race??