Guess by now you're finding out you have to be very
But, you can't trick the marathon. If you don't respect the distance you are about to run by training consistently, it will stomp you like a bug! In the summer, it's easy - shoes, shorts, and a singlet, but when the Arctic winds blow, I am a weenie and it's every long sleeve, tights, gloves, knit hats, and anything else I can get on and still move. Sometimes, I feel like that kid in "Christmas Story" that falls over and can't get up because he has so many clothes on. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not about that hating cold weather stuff - always have, always will! And as I get older, it gets worse! I want to sweat, I want to feel that sun beating down, I want my shoes to squish when I finish my workout. I don't want to be shivering, I don't want my water bottle to freeze, and I don't want my fingers to be so cold that I can't turn my car door key at the end of my run. So now I see we might see some temps in the 30's next week, and soon the morning temperatures will be in the 30's much of the time. And although it's not biting, chattering cold, I know it's a slippery slope from here to Absolute Zero. Gotta keep thinking spring is around the corner. OK, it's pretty far around the corner, but I'm goal oriented. The current 40's are not really THAT cold, but we better prepare now for those wonderful mornings when the frigid winds stat-a-blowin'.
The only reliable trick to running in the cold weather is to learn how to layer. Now, we don't live in Maine, so the chances of getting frostbitten while we're running is pretty slim, but our southern blood is thinner (it's not really, but that's what my grandmother told me) and we feel the cold more. So, the idea is to layer and that way you trap warm air between the layers to keep you warmer. Each layer you put on has a specific purpose: moisture wicking, insulating, wind breaking, rain (or snow) protection. Now for some rules: AVOID COTTON - good for shopping in, bad for running in. It absorbs sweat like a sponge (up to 17 TIMES it's weight), and you lose body heat faster than you can make it. CHOOSE MOISTURE-WICKING TOPS FOR YOUR BASE LAYER - this should fit fairly close to the skin, but not tight - usually a material of coolmax, dri-fit, capilene, or some other brand name. A 2nd layer of similar material may be needed as an insulating layer on REALLY cold days. The 2nd layer should fit looser to trap a cushion of warmed air. On a cold or breezy day, you may want to opt for a lightweight, breathable jacket over your base layer(s). Just plain nylon jackets are not very good because they will form a little tropical rainstorm INSIDE your jacket! You will also overheat if there is nowhere for the heat to escape (even on cold days) so if you wear a jacket, a vented one is best.
If it's raining, you won't melt, but you will get wet (2nd grade science). You'll need a jacket that's at least water resistant and preferably waterproof. GoreTex is the Gold standard, but these can tend to get a little pricey, especially when you factor in the number of times you will actually need it. A few years ago, I found one that sells for about $35 (windproof, waterproof, and very light) at http://o2rainwear.com/2011/03/original-cycling-jacket/ . I have worn this jacket for literally about 7-8 years, in everything from short training runs to 31 mile races in an all day rainstorm. Of course, almost a decade later, you can probably find a comparable one with newer (breathable) technology.
Finally, you will lose most of your heat from your head and your hands, so hats and gloves made with those same miracle fabrics are best. Some are waterproof. ALL of these products are available at the Trak Shak - they support us, let's support them and they definitely know what you need. Next to the wheel, the greatest invention ever is HotHands. These are little disposable chemical heat packs that you put in your gloves while you run and they stay warm up to 8 hours!! For about 60 cents for a pair, these are GOLD folks!! Stock up now!! I keep a BOX in the trunk of my car!
Lastly, there are two words I haven't mentioned so far; windbriefs and insulating sportsbras. There, I've mentioned them!! Look them up. I don't know about the sportsbra, but there have been some mornings I'd almost rather run without my shoes than without a windbrief!!
The key to running in cold weather is the ability to layer properly, not to put on every last stitch of running clothes you own! By layering, you will trap warmed air between the layers, and after 30+ years of running, it still amazes me how much you warm up after about 1-2 miles of running. The rule of thumb is to dress like it's 15-20 degrees warmer than the actual temperature (even I haven't completely embraced this rule-of-thumb). Wind and rain are going to have a lot to say about how you'll dissipate that heat, but there's tons of different materials out there to handle anything Mother, Father, Sister, and Brother Nature can throw at you. Keep your eye on the goal - Spring is March 21st!
I'll see you on the cold and winding roads - AL