For many Marathon Mission members, the winter months can often start with some snow flurries as early as October (I recall going Trick or Treating as a child in a snow storm in Wisconsin) and snow isn’t out of the realm of reality in May. Again, I recall April showers bringing May flowers . . . poking through the snow.
So, training in colder weather and snow brings challenges those in more southern states don’t have to worry about too often -- for example running in snow. Well, let’s take a step back. There may be no more excellent experience than running in fresh fallen snow (or better yet, a snow storm). The snow muffles every step, every sound, you can look behind you and see your individual steps, cars passing by barely make a sound . . . everything is so quiet, with every step cushioned by the snow. Sure, it’s not a fast run, but it’s a beautiful one.
HAVING SAID THAT, that’s about where the fun of running in the snow ends, because the next day, if people shoveled their walks, you have the hidden slippery spots under a dusting of snow, a pulled muscle just a step away; if they haven’t shoveled, you have packed snow from people walking on it that’s uneven and icy and an ankle sprain waiting to happen. Yes, I’ve pulled a hamstring and I’ve twisted an ankle attempting those runs.
So, the alternative that I attempted was running in the street (snow plows typically keeping them cleaner and salted) . . . but unfortunately, that leads to getting splashed with whatever is remaining on the road . . . and yes, you know those big slush puddles that form in dips and in those handy pot holes? Yes, I still remember the arcing sheet of icy slush water that at least I was able to turn my back to before it soaked me . . . about went numb before I got home! : )
Of course, running in the street has a bigger drawback than getting doused by cars. Just as you can slip on ice and fall, drivers can lose control of their cars and both the car and you, when on snow/ice, aren’t near as nimble or able to react as quickly . . . and even if you are facing traffic as you run, it doesn’t mean that the car coming from behind you on the other side of the road can’t lose control and come sliding across the road into you.
So, what’s the answer?
It’s pretty simple. Slow down. Just as you don’t drive 65 on an icy highway, gear down and run easy on shoveled walks, EXPECTING every step to be icy. Avoid long strides because if you take a long stride and hit a patch of ice, your leg is already extended and there’s no room to recover, EXCEPT for your hamstring to give . . . pull . . . tear.
IF you have the unfortunate experience of living in an area where walks are NOT shoveled (like I now experience down in Missouri), what I do is I drive to a mall, the bigger the better. I don’t run inside (pretty sure they wouldn’t allow that, though some malls do allow early morning walkers), but I simply run on the roads/parking lot of the mall in the early morning – no traffic because the mall doesn't open until 9 and speed bumps keep any traffic that happens to come through going slower. Basically, because their existence depends on easy access and parking, the one place where you can depend on having a clear place to run faster than any place else is the mall lot (early morning only, though)!
Another suggestion I have for winter running is to get into the season and tie some “jingle bells” to your shoes. Why? In the summer, people can hear you approaching behind them (somewhat . . . if you give a strategic cough), but in the winter, people are wearing hats, ear muffs, hoods, scarves — all kinds of things that keep warmth in, but hinder sound. By putting some “seasonal” jingle bells on your shoes, it gives people a heads up that you’re coming up behind them AND they can move to the side and let you pass (rather than scaring the snot out them as you dart by). Although the scared look MIGHT be entertaining, being a courteous runner helps improve the image of runners in non-runners minds (and could keep you from getting an earful of unpleasant words). : )
Finally, one last thing to keep in mind when running in winter: if you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake on the too cautious side. : )
Other than that, find yourself a good Jingle Bell run (maybe get some free jingle bells) and have a wonderful Christmas season!
Have an awesome run today!
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