First Run In Sub-Zero Temperatures

Daylight is hard to come by this time of year which makes it hard to sneak in a run before or after work. When the weekend roles around, I try to take advantage of the daylight and run as much as possible.  This past weekend was extended because of Martin Luther King Day so I planned on running on Monday morning.

The temperature where I live dropped dramatically over the weekend and we went from 40 degrees on Saturday to 10 below zero when I woke up on Monday morning.  The coldest temperature that I had ever run in was 2 degrees so I had to decide if I should run or not and if I did, should I wait for it to warm up a little?

I recently read an article titled A Runner’s Rules which contained a really good a list of 47 rules that runners should follow. Rule #10 was “Never use the weather as an excuse not to run”. So I didn’t. By this time, the temperature was -7 degrees and the predicted high for the day was -3 degrees. It didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to wait so I suited up and headed outside.

The coldest weather that I had ever run in was 2 degrees and that was only a 2-miler. When it gets really cold out, I run short 2 or 3 mile routes which circle back to home. Things can happen like your toes or fingers get cold or you slip on some ice and twist your ankle. These could be disastrous if they occurred 10 miles from home. By running short routes, I’m never more than 1 mile from home.  Another thing that helps make it easier to run in the cold is to dress in several thin layers instead of wearing big, bulky clothing. It feels better and it allows you to shed a layer if you start to get overheated. No matter how cold it is, I am always sweaty and often carrying an item of clothing or two when I finish a run.

On this day I wore a pair of wool socks over my running socks inside some ASICS Cumulus 10 shoes. No cleats. On my lower half I wore compression shorts, covered by a pair of running tights, followed by a pair of running pants. For my upper half I wore a long sleeve t-shirt, covered with a sweatshirt, followed by a Pearl Izumi windbreaker. For gloves, I wore some thin work gloves that I bought at Home Depot covered with a second pair of Thinsulate gloves. For my head, I just wore a face mask which covered my mouth and a pair sunglasses. I also made sure to wear my Road ID just in case.

Out the door I went. The first half mile was down a street that is notorious for having icy sidewalks. Since there was very little traffic, I ran in the street against traffic so there was a car was coming, I could just jump up on the sidewalk and let it pass. After that, everything went smoothly until I turned and found myself running into a slight wind which, at -7 degrees, made it a little hard to breathe. My sunglasses also began to frost over. I reached an intersection where I make a choice of routes. One is 2 miles and the other is 3. I opted for the 2-mile route at planned on stopping when I got back home.

However, when I reached the end of the 2 miles, I actually felt really good and the wind had become a non-factor so I decided to loop around and do the same route again in reverse. By mile 3, my legs were feeling a little cold but still not too bad. Everything else was feeling great but I had to ditch the sunglasses and carry them the rest of the way. When I got back home, my legs felt a little too chilled for my liking. I figured that I could last about 1 or 2 more miles but that would be it. My pace was slow but not terrible. On a 4-mile run, I usually shoot for 7:45 to 8:00 minutes per mile and this one came out at 8:32.

The next time I go out in sub-zero weather, I’m going to add another layer to the legs and try using a ski mask instead of sunglasses. I’m pretty convinced that this would allow me to throw down a good 7 to 10 miles at a respectable pace.

One thing that I can not explain is that I find myself cringing at the thought of walking from my house to my car when it’s -7 degrees outside but I have no problem running 4 miles. In fact I look forward to it. Weird.