Every year I face the daunting task of trying to stay active through the cold winters here. Especially this year, where I have the unenviable take of actually building my mileage for my ultra season through this tough season.
This, of course, is my least favorite season. I joke sometimes that my southern Italian and Puerto Rican blood is way too thin and that I freeze as a result. Seriously though, there is an element to this season that I feel is more dangerous than running in the summer heat when the temperatures plummet below freezing. If I overheat during the summer heat, I can slow down and even walk. But in the winter, no matter where I am, if I'm too cold during my run, you have to keep moving. Stopping could make your situation worse or even life threatening.
And the season has a nuisance factor also. With summer all I have to do is throw on a singlet, shorts, and shoes to run. But I have to layer up in winter with all of these clothes. And which clothes to put on? If the day is in the 30s, should I put on a thinner shirt on top, or should I stay with the thicker one because it's raining. How many layers on the bottom? Is the snow going to be a factor. Ugh!
The only sane way to run during the winter is to be prepared. If I'm running tomorrow, I need to check the weather forecasts today, and lay out all my running clothes that I might have a chance to run in so that I are not running around my apartment trying to find a critical item of clothing that I need. I have a large bag from Specialized that I use for my winter "locker" to store all types of winter running clothes so that I can get to them in a pinch if I need them. Wearing the right clothes is definitely key to having a great run in the winter folks, and wasting time fishing around for them is the last thing you want before your run.
As for the "dangerous" element of running...if I feel I might end up a popsicle somewhere along my running route due to dangerously cold temperatures, I tend to alter my route to stay near my apartment or car so that if I start to feel hypothermic, I can rest easy knowing that safety is right around the corner. I have a convenient 1.5 mile loop in case it's really cold out. Sure, the endless loops can get boring, but I know that I'll be safe.
Also, any inclement weather could pose a danger to me if I use streets that are laden with traffic. After a significant snow, those streets will be narrower, which means I will be running closer to traffic. Well, in any season, running against traffic is always important, but it becomes critical here. This way, if a car is coming that might come very close, I can stop, move out of the way and wait until the danger passes. Having that car coming in front of me gives me ample warning and time to react to the danger. Again, being prepared to stop is more important than your pace.
Lastly, since running in the dark is unavoidable for me, I make sure I carry a light or reflective vest so that drivers can see me.
Take my advice people. Make sure you have all your clothes ready the night before your run. Make sure you check the weather forecasts to see what kind of conditions you will be faced on your run tomorrow, and make sure you do the things that make you stay safe, both weatherwise and trafficwise. If you do this, you will tolerate and maybe enjoy this season, and will be ready for the season when the spring comes.
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