Gotta Run: Running/walking in ice, snow and bitter cold

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to do winter running, precipitation or not. This last week has used all that knowledge to keep going and make those winter runs better. About 25 years ago, I spent a winter in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and learned from the experts. I hate to miss a day and dread allowing the winter weather to call the shots.

When we have extreme weather, people invariably ask me, “Did you run today?” I know it’s coming and that prospect helps push me out the door at the coldest part of the morning. I simply must be able to answer, “Yes!” And preferably tell them I ran in shorts, nothing to it!  The daily run continues.

Topping the list for comfort in these conditions is keeping hands, toes, ears and another protected area warm. Depending on the cold extremes, I use mittens with hand warmers, a heavy toboggan and extra layers. The best mittens are the ones that allow the fingers to touch each other.

Wind is a factor as well. If extremely cold, running into the wind first is a must. Go ahead and get the uncomfortable headwind or sidewind out of the way. Then get a significant boost when turned around and the wind pushing toward home.

Sweating on cold runs, and you will still sweat, is another big factor. For example, don’t lay on the heavy layers that cause more sweating. The rule of thumb is to dress for 20 degrees higher than the actual air temperature. Then we’re less likely to have to peel layers along the way.

My last line of defense in extreme cold, and for me this is 15 degrees or colder, is Vaseline or petroleum jelly. Just a light layer on the exposed parts of the face and on the hands before they go in the mittens help the comfort level. Same thing for the toes along with wool running socks.

Much faster when I was younger, I learned about running in snow and ice with that Green Bay trip. All winter up there, snow and ice are factors. Trucks keep plowing and salt is constantly applied in low temperatures. Northerners seldom let snow keep them home, usually a good thing. Snow and ice don’t stop runners either. The coldest conditions I’ve experienced, on one five-mile early morning run, were 20 below zero and enough wind to produce a 40 below wind chill factor. I added an extra layer and wore a toboggan with eye, nose and mouth holes cut out. I had no exposed skin that morning and it all turned out well. Icy eyebrows look cool.

Snow and ice, roads and sidewalks are challenging together. Add a little slope to the roads and things can get interesting. Falling on ice can be terrible, a teeth-jarring jolt at the very least. Slowing down to concentrate on foot placement is the key. I learned a long time ago to look for the white ice to run on because it has traction. If there is shiny black ice or you can’t see ice, be careful. If the first foot slips, then the second one has to stabilize the body or a crash results.

Snow itself is generally good to run on, especially newly fallen snow. Hard-packed snow is good too, but watch for the soft crust that allows the foot to sink in holes. Slowing down will get through that.

Don’t let the snow or ice keep you home. My favorite training runs ever have been on snowy and calm, still-dark winter mornings. By preparing and being a little extra careful, we can still enjoy winter weather.

Two American women had record-setting days earlier this month. In the Chevron Houston Marathon, 37-year-old Kiera D’Amato set the women’s American record of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds. Sara Hall, 38, set the women’s American half marathon record at 1 hour, 7 minutes and 15 seconds. Both records were huge surprises, broke long-standing records and were set by women considered old by world-class distance standards.

Salisbury’s biggest and best running event is Sunday, Jan. 30 at the New Sarum Brewing 39th Annual 8K/5K and Fun Run. Start time is 2 p.m. at Catawba College. More info on this and other upcoming events is found at .

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