I’ve just got back from my sister’s glorious wedding in Sri Lanka. This is us about to head off for a run in 35 degree tropical heat. I appear to be smiling, but behind my sunnies, I am weeping with fear and exhaustion. Not only is my sister 11 years my junior, but she is miles fitter than me and lives in Melbourne so is used to exercising in extreme weather conditions. We are carrying boxes of confetti – as you do – because Anna was worried that on our jungle run, we might lose our way, so we were to scatter pieces of confetti like Hansel and Gretel to make sure we didn’t end up lost, lying in a ditch and dying of dehydration while we were attacked by rabid dogs. Anyway, the run lived up to its billing and was suitably terrifying: dogs aplenty, and the humidity made breathing extremely difficult. I’m amazed I survived, I was panting desperately on the final climb, weak as a kitten and just thrilled to make it home in one piece. The swim afterwards – I literally fell into the pool fully clothed – was paradise. Needless to say, my little sister barely broke a sweat. And sprinted up the final hill leaving me hobbling behind her in a trail of dust.
I am sharing this memory of barely a week ago because this morning I braced my usual run in polar opposite conditions. I was struggling to breath again though, this time because it felt as though I was inhaling ice, and my fingers went completely numb, so I brought to mind that very recent run in Sri Lanka – hell at the time – and made it my ‘happy place’ that I went to to distract myself from freezing my tits off. Amazing how quickly that run has gone from the hell it actually was, to an epic holiday memory. I knew this would be the case of course which is why I was mustard keen to do it in the first place, despite my terror. So cheers for that sista sista xxx
Anyhoo, my husband tells me it is in the post: Snow! It is all too easy in the face of such brutal weather conditions to postpone one’s good intentions of shifting all that Crimbo lard from January to February (when no doubt those intentions will promptly be adjourned until Spring). You know the story. We have all been here before. We are here every year.
Tips for uber gritty winter running whatever the weather:
●Do not try and make it fun. IT IS NOT FUN. You will fail if you try and make it fun. Fun is what you can have when you get back from your run;
●Assume that your motivation to do this will mirror the outside air temperature: below zero. Ignore this brutal truth, lace up and go anyway. Any motivation you may have will be experienced retrospectively. You will want to go again because of what you got out of it the last time. You just have to trust me on this one.
●Get your clothing right. Waterproof and even windproof outer layers are ideal. I have a black ‘onesie’ type item for my top half that I bought from a specialist running shop which covers my head, a lot of my face, my neck my hands the whole shebang and regulates my body temperature. It is brilliant for running in all winter conditions. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have one; a beanie, lightweight scarf and gloves will do just fine but head, neck and hand coverage are essential throughout Winter. Because we all know that the first 10 minutes of every run is hellish, whatever the weather. But in January and February, those first 10 minutes is where hell goes to self-harm: Icy wind, snow, rain or sleet, (possibly stay indoors if its hailing) biting around your head face neck and ears is beyond brutal and an entirely unnecessary grit add-on, so do dress appropriately.
●Wear two pairs of socks. This has such a positive impact on the whole experience it warrants its own bullet point. Two pairs of socks has the effect of making your feet feel so warm and toasty in comparison with the rest of your body that it provides a welcome distraction during those first 10 minutes while the rest of your body acclimatises. I really focus on my feet, marvelling at how warm they are, like little radiators, and I envisage them spreading heat up into my legs and ultimately throughout the rest of my body. After 10 minutes I am warm all over and the rest of the run is a pleasure…ish
● Always be alert to potential hazards and slipping in mud, slush, ice etc. Layers of snow can hide icy patches so take extra special care if you’re running in areas where the snow has been lying for days. Be safe. Go even more slowly than usual if it has been snowing. That way you can run for longer as once you are out and running, you may as well nail as many kilometres as you can so that you don’t have to go again tomorrow.
● A must-have footwear gadget for running in thick snow and ice: ice cleats. Available from http://www.blacktoes.co.uk, they offer a good grip on treacherous ice and are frankly, essential kit if you are serious about running after heavy snowfall. They are cheap(ish) and dead easy to order online so no excuses. Invest in a pair and never again use the ‘weather excuse’. And yes, they deliver throughout Ireland. And while its still only in the post, lets be grateful for every snowless, ice-free run where all we have to contend with is the cold.
The Grit Doctor says:
The more brutal the physical conditions accompanying your run, the bigger the pay-off at the end and the more calories you will burn. If you can grit out a run in Siberian conditions, I reckon you can do pretty much anything. So, bring on the freeze baby.