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Winter running

Erin Crowell - January 11th, 2010
Winter Running/Lunatic or badass? It depends on your viewpoint
By Erin Crowell
Here is an obvious observation, and something to think about next time you
step onto the treadmill: Fewer people run outside during the winter.
Now, take that with you when you step outside for a winter run. You are
among the few dedicated people who don’t let a little weather get in their
While others shuffle along wearing parkas and a look of pain, it’s just
you pushing through the whiteout, arms and legs pumping. With every step
you feel the give of snow and ice – and barriers. Something inside says,
“Oh yeah. You—my friend—are a badass.” Meanwhile, passing motorists are
laughing at the lunatic (i.e. you).
Keep your crazy-self running outdoors during the winter by following these
tips and guidelines.

There’s nothing glamorous about a winter run. You’re decked out in
earmuffs and unflattering layers, complemented by the collection of frozen
snot on your upper lip. Your face is cold while your body is roasting.
Sweat is pooling. You’re drowning in your own stench.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Wear the right clothing and you’ll feel like you’re running in your own
comfortable environment – allowing you to enjoy your surroundings, rather
than fighting it.
Cotton is your worst enemy. It leaves you overheated, wet and blistered.
“As cotton gets wet, it absorbs water, becomes heavy and then becomes
abrasive to your skin. Choose clothing made of ‘technical fabrics’ such as
Lycra, DriFit, even Polyester to keep you dry and avoid chaffing your
skin,” says professional running coach Joe English in a 2008 Running
Advice and News blog.
Although a bit pricier, technical fabrics will save you pain and
discomfort. They also tend to be less bulky than cotton. Just be sure to
keep the rule of three: base, thermal and outer layer. These will wick
away sweat, maintain body temperature and protect you from outside
elements such as wind.
Keep yourself dry and toasty by running into the wind first, then catching
a tail wind on your way home, says Jeff Gaft of Running Fit in Traverse
“(By running into the wind at the end of your run), you will get colder
because the wind is cooling your perspiration faster,” says Gaft.
Also, dress 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature, adds English.
Remove layers accordingly as your core heats up. You should always have a
layer covering your skin for protection, such as long sleeves, pants,
gloves and a hat (earmuffs are fine, too. The puffier, the funnier).
Wear clothing with bright colors that will stand out against the snow,
preferably reflective material – available in the form of vests, shirts
and jackets – even arm straps.
As for the runny nose, bring plenty of tissue or use an available sleeve.

Another important element of the winter running outfit is your shoes. As
long as you’ve got decent traction, a pair of running shoes used during
the summer will work just fine, says Gaft.
For temperature comfort, run in a Goretex or waterproof shoe. Want more
grip? Gaft says to add a traction-aiding device such as Yaktrax, a pair of
rubber webbing with snow-hugging wire that fits to the bottom of your
As far as where to run in the winter, Gaft recommends any less-traveled,
snowy road, avoiding icy spots and hard-packed snow.
“Snow will give you traction, but very hard packed snow doesn’t offer
much. If you’re running down a slippery road and there’s snow on the side,
run in that,” he says.
Gaft, an ultramarathon runner who has clocked 50 to 100 miles a race, is a
regular winter runner. He usually takes advantage of the back roads of his
home in Honor and quiet side streets of downtown Traverse City.
“The City of Traverse City does a great job of clearing the sidewalks,”
says Gaft.
In case you do come across some slick spots, it’s important to pay
attention to your posture and footfall.
“The most important thing is to have your foot under your knee, and your
knee under your hip and land more flat-footed,” says Gaft.
In other words, don’t land on your heel, with all your balance points and
joints out in front of you. Doing so gives you less stability.

All the technique and traction in the world won’t protect you from injury
if you come head-to-fender with a passing car.
According to the January issue of Runners World, “Nearly 20 runners had
been killed by cars or trucks during the first 10 months of 2009, and more
than 40 runners have been killed since 2004.”
On top of that, it’s difficult to know exactly how many runners have been
injured, and nearly impossible to track the amount of “close calls.”
Regardless, it’s a hazard to run wherever traffic may be present. Run
defensively around cars. Position yourself by facing traffic when running
on the road, in some places it’s the law, says English.
Also, observe traffic.
“It’s not hard to spot a driver that is having trouble with driving in the
snow,” he says. “If they look nervous about your presence, stop and move
over until they pass.”
There’s no sense in getting all geared up just to get hit by a salt truck.
Stay safe out there – and come back home for a nice steamy cup of hot
cocoa and a snowball for your spouse or roommate.
You just might have to do another run. Away!

Getting Motivated

You’ve got the gear, you’ve got the snow. Now, all you need is some
motivation. Here are some reasons to keep running outdoors when the snow
is falling. To find more winter races in Michigan, visit

Frozen Foot Race – Saturday, January 16
Run five frozen miles through Traverse City, starting at Eastern
Elementary School at 10 a.m. Cost, $15 for pre-registration, $20 the day
of the race. For more info, visit or call Running Fit at
933-9242 or

Bigfoot Snowshoe Race – Saturday, January 23
Use your winter training to compete in the snowshoe race at Timber Ridge
Resort in Traverse City, at 9 a.m. 5k and 10k races available at $15 for
early registration, and $20 for race day. Don’t have snowshoes? Rent a
pair for $7. Call 932-5401 for more info.

The Iceman’s Half Marathon/10k – Saturday, February 27
Mt. Pleasant road race for those ready for anything, including ice, snow
and wind. Starts at 10 a.m. at 2316 S. Mission St. $30 for the half
marathon, $25 for the 10k. Packet pick-up will be at the Runners
Performance Store. Call 989-289-2361 for more info.

Wanted: volunteers for the 2010 North American VASA
The 2010 North American VASA Cross-country Ski Race is seeking
volunteers to assist in both indoor and outdoor tasks February 12-14. 
Examples of volunteer jobs are: ski the course the morning before the
race to smooth the ski tracks and remove fallen branches, pack skier
registration bags, act as crossing guards at snowmobile crossings, pass
out water at aid stations, help with the awards ceremony, help clean-up
after the race, and more. Most activities will take place at Timber
Ridge RV & Recreation Resort at 4050 E. Hammond Road in Traverse City
on both Saturday and Sunday February 13-14.
  Volunteers are encouraged to sign up via the internet at
and click on the volunteer link, or for more information call Lisa Taylor,
race director, at 631-2195.

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