EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 27, 2013

Running and sweating at zero degrees should not be intimidating

On Running
Dave Dyer

---- — By the end of my street, only about 120 yards, I knew I was overdressed Friday morning.

Intimidated, perhaps, by the forecast of temperatures hovering around zero, and the howling wind the night before as I prepared for bed, I was ready for brutal conditions for my morning run.

So, I was wearing long underwear under my running pants, four long sleeve T-shirts underneath a running jacket and a ski mask covered by a skating cap. Nothing was exposed except for tiny slits around my eyes that allowed me to see.

It was too much.

Within a mile, my head was hot and I had begun sweating. This ultimately caused some impressive ice to form on my face mask, making it look like I had been out on a mountain for days.

In fact, I’d only been outside for 10 minutes and, within another 15 minutes, I was wishing I had worn one less T-shirt.

By the time I finished, I had taken off two layers as I “cooled” down from my four-mile run.

Part of the problem was that the temperature was warmer than expected, about 5 degrees and the wind had died down overnight considerably.

But the main point to digest is that running in the extreme cold is nowhere near as brutal as it might seem to non-runners.

If you’re completely covered and keep moving, there is really nothing to worry about.

I learned this lesson nearly 30 years ago when I was living in central Illinois and the coldest stretch in 50 years hit the state.

Much more of a running addict then, I was determined to not miss a day of running regardless of the weather.

So one Sunday morning, I got up and put on every layer I could find and went out for a 10-mile run when the temperature had fallen to minus-22 and the wind chill was near minus-80.

At first as I headed into the wind, it seemed insane and people in the few cars on the road (most wouldn’t start that day) looked at me like I was crazy. My wife had the same thought and nearly called the police when I was gone more than an hour.

But, tough as the first few miles were, the run became exhilarating when I turned around after five miles and had the wind at my back.

There was an odd clicking that I figured out was an icicle from my face mask that was rubbing against my jacket zipper with every stride. But, again, by the end of the run I was downright warm, and I definitely had a warm feeling about completing the run.

Certainly runs in the extreme cold are not for everyone, but they can be exhilarating and they definitely can provide a “runner’s high” with a feeling of great accomplishment.

Some runners will take a day or two off in such conditions and do some cross training in the gym until the weather warms up. There’s nothing wrong with that.

And still others will bundle up and wait until the middle of the day and do some cross country skiing or snow showing — another good alternative.

All I’m saying is that runners of all levels shouldn’t be scared by the extremes of winter.

For those who are prepared, it can become a highlight to remember.