Those who know me have heard it many times before: cold weather is not my friend. In fact, I’ll wear a jacket or vest until the thermometer tops 70, and tend to overdress when I head out for a run.
And while the Red River Valley has some of the toughest winters, with temperatures routinely below zero and gales regularly pushing the windchill to minus 20 or colder, you’ll still see me bundled up and running the roads.
The most important ingredient in running in the Great Northland during winter is layering clothes to stay warm while limiting the amount of exposed skin. Perhaps the second is simple enough: start your runs into the wind. Thirdly, footing is extremely important, and if you’re running outside, invest $20-$30 for spikes to stretch over your running shoes when the streets are packed with snow or ice.
The general rule for clothing is to dress for 15-20 degrees warmer than it is outside. But it’s really a matter of personal preference and comfort; I tend to dress a bit warmer than most. Regardless of your clothing strategy, it’s also imperative to have an outer layer that is both wind and moisture resistant.
Based on wind chill, these are my preferences when I decide to be an ice road runner:
15 to 35 degrees: A moisture-wicking baselayer and jacket, running tights or pants, hat and gloves. A thin balaclava also helps protect against the wind.
0 to 15 degrees: Same as above, except I’ll wear a fleece vest over the baselayer and opt for warmer gloves or mittens.
Below 0 to minus-15: Instead of a fleece vest, I’ll wear a long sleeve fleece shirt. In addition, I’ll add a windproof, fully adjustable balaclava over my head and neck. My lower body usually will be layered, too, ideally with windproof tights or pants.
Minus-15 and colder: Running in these extremes takes commitment, or desperation. At least 2 layers for the lower body, 3 layers for the upper body. Add a healthy dose of courage and feel good that while most people are sitting inside where it’s warm, you’re out making yourself a better runner.
A helpful tip: If possible, run with a friend or group in the winter. It’s more fun conquering Mother Nature with others, giving you stories and memories to share for a lifetime. It also helps if you are injured out on the roads.
Helpful tip No. 2: Running with a friend or group also helps others to see you out on the roads. Safety should be top priority, and drivers are more apt to see a group rather than a lone runner. Daylight is at a premium during the winter, and many of your runs are likely to come outside of daylight hours.
All about safety: Regardless of the temperature, don’t forget about safety and helping others see you. Wear reflective gear, especially in the winter, when the weather can make driving treacherous. Quite honestly, most running clothes have far too little retroreflective stripes, piping or logos to provide enough benefit to motorists. Throw on a vest, a couple of flashing lights and even reflective ankle or wrist bands. One option to a vest is the Amphipod Xinglet, which is easily adjustable to fit over any jacket.
Those new to running outside in the winter, or if you’re simply looking for a refresher course, can click here for a good guideline and other useful links.