It’s a terribly British thing to talk about the weather. As a student I remember some foreign students laughing about how many people they hear talking about the weather in the UK, which wouldn’t be so bad if it was exceptional for the season, but mostly it was par for the time of year.
However, as a runner the weather is a pretty important subject if you don’t want to mess up on a long run or race. Today we hosted a 10mile weekend long run with extra miles to make it up to 14 for those that wanted it. Given the kick-off time of 8am from the clubhouse, most people, myself included, would have put their kit out the night before. This would have been fine had it not been -2°C when I went out to the car. The shorts and T-shirt I’d put out the night before were simply not going to be enough. Time to grab the fleece jacket and gloves. Of those that ran, some were too cold, some were too warm and most didn’t have fluids.
So what do we need to keep in mind about the cold weather? The most obvious point concerns the extremities. Cover them. I used to think that as long as you are running, you’ll stay warm enough for it to not be an issue, but that’s completely flawed of course. If it’s cold enough your extremities will simply stay cold if not covered. I learned that the hard way in the South African winter, foolishly assuming it would be warm, only packed shorts and t-shirts to run. The -5°C mornings were just too fresh and it was impossible to maintain heat and my fingers and ears were like ice no matter how long I ran. So in winter, hats and gloves should be definitely in the kit left out the night before.
Hydration is another point worth thinking about. When its cold your body works harder than in warmer weather by having more work to do maintaining body temperature especially, if the air is dry also. Just because its cold, however, it doesn’t mean that you don’t sweat. You do, and you loose water and salt through sweat at a greater rate. A lot of runners neglect hydration in winter, possibly thinking that if its cold that you will sweat less. So, remembering hydration in cold weather is key to being able to comfortably complete the runs.
Clothing is also very important, especially taking into consideration the fact that you will sweat, therefore wicking sport materials are important if you want to be comfortable. The general advice seems to be put layers on. The ‘base’ layer should be a lightweight wicking top, then depending on the weather either a second layer of fleece or rain jacket. If you get too warm the second layer should be packable or you should be able to tie it round your waist.
Chilling is something that we all like to do, but not when its -2°C and you are cooling down rapidly. During the run, keep the regrouping as brief as possible to avoid cooling down too much, and when the run is over its important to change quickly out of the running gear and get warm again.
So there’s really no reason to stay inside and skip your run when its cold or when the weather turns bad. There is a famous Scandinavian saying “Det finnes ingen dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær” which in Norwegian means “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing”, which is definitely appropriate to us runners.