Ode to Winter Running

Here we are at the end af January and at the end of a cold snap.  Every year, around this time, hardy distance runners experience a barrage of the same questions and statements.  They come from nice and well-meaning people and they sound like this: “Why do you run in the winter?”  “I don’t understand running in the winter” and “I hate running.”  I don’t begrudge you, nice person, for asking.  Not at all.  I assume that you like and care about me and that’s why you want to tell me that you dislike my sport.  So I am going to tell you about running in the winter.  Maybe you’ll never grasp it, but that’s ok.

1. The number one reason why I run in the winter is this: The Boston Marathon is the 3rd Monday of April, regardless of whether or not it’s -10 with a windchill of-20 and there’s 2 cm of snow on the ground.  Race day comes in “x” number of weeks, no matter what.  If it’s important to you to run well at the greatest marathon race on earth, you train when it’s -10 with wind and snow.

2. Running in the winter lets me experience a small slice of childhood joy.  Remember when you were in grade 2?  You would run home, put on the your snowsuit and play with your favorite neighborhood friends in the snowbanks?  I rush home from work, put on my winter running gear and play intervals and V02 max with my favorite running friends, next to snowbanks.  It’s kinda the same thing.

3. Training in the winter gives me a mental edge.  When I line up at Boston with 25,000 other runners, I know that many of them trained in the southern or western USA and I tell myself that I, snow-hardened Nova Scotian, am tougher than them.

4. Training in the winter gives me a fitness edge.  If I can hit 10k pace in -12 with snow on the sidewalks and while making 90-degree turns on city streets, where I am running because the track has been buried under snow for 8 weeks and the 200m indoor track is for hamsters , I can surely hit 10k pace on a pleasantly warm spring race day.

5. Most of us have a choice to hibernate or get outside in the winter.  Running gets me outside.  In the sunshine.  Or early in the morning, under the last few hours of a low-hanging peaceful moon.  That’s cool.  The cold really isn’t as big an issue as you think, as long as you have good gear. You know what I don’t understand?  People who buy vitamin D supplements.  The sun is free, get out there, people!

6. I get to see and experience lovely things that I wouldn’t if I choose to hibernate or climb into a winter dreadmill cage.  I get to experience the sparkle of the Halifax Harbour from high above on the MacDonald Bridge, with the lovely city skyline in front of me.  It’s just not the same when you are peering through your windshield in a line of traffic.  I get to experience the glassy still and calm surface of Lake Banook on precious wind-free days.  The water’s surface speaks to me, telling me to be still and calm.  Sometimes my footsteps at 6am are the first ones in fresh and clean snow.  Sometimes I am the only person outside on a street in the North End, while snowflakes gently fall.

7. I appreciate the change in seasons in a profound way.  I keep the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” on all of my running playlists and I listen to it all winter.  I know that one day in March or April, after “a long cold lonely winter,” I will feel the sun on my bare arms while I listen to this song.  The sun feels unbelievably delicious on that day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6j4TGqVl5g (enjoy Here Comes the Sun)

8. I appreciate the pure and kind people who shovel their sidewalks.  A lot.  Actually, I love them.

Post Long Run Snowbank Ice Bath

9. Snowbanks are superior to bathtubs with cold water for ice baths.  Ice baths = recovery and relief after extra long runs.   Disclaimer- no blog room here for people who don’t understand ice baths.

10. Being hardcore is part of a distance runner’s identity.  I admit it.  During a recent snowstorm, my husband was reading his twitter feed and said to me, “a jogger just ran by buddy’s house.”  I said, “In a snowstorm?  That’s not a jogger, it’s a runner.”

I am smart about winter running.  You should be smart too.  Let the experts at Runner’s World help you with tips on being safe while running in the cold:

Ice bath post 28k long run, January 30

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11 Responses to Ode to Winter Running

  1. Colette says:

    Thank you for trying to help me understand…I would still probably make a bunch of comments that would annoy you!!!

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  3. Shauna says:

    Well done blog on winter running. I have been asked countless times over the years why the hell I run in the winter. Treadmills bore me to death and you really don’t get a quality run in. You’re right, only true runners run all winter long, the ice and snow just condition are obliques more (speaking of which, I have yet to discover mine again….).
    Kudos to you for all your hardcore training, Erin, I don’t know how you do it. It takes a miraculous kind of determination and desire. I’m touched by your desire to raise money for HIV education and run across The Gambia……amazing, you’ll be a hero in many books, especially to those precious children.
    I’m proud of you! But, still think you are crazy (in a good way):)
    hugs, S.

  4. Laura says:

    You ARE hardcore. It amazes me that you can run in weather that results in my hibernation!

  5. Dawn Hughes says:

    Awesome Erin. I totally understand, except (sorry)the ice baths. I am usually cold enough so the thought of jumping into ice…….”shiver”. Love ya lots.

  6. Heather says:

    That ice bath is enough for me! My legs are cold enough after a winter run, if you want to call it that! Do you really run to work? Now I feel like a blob…

  7. Debbie Martin says:

    Love the photo in the bathtub with the Steve-O-Reno’s 🙂

    Great post, Erin! My favorite point was regarding your love for people who clean their sidewalks.

  8. deidre dacanay says:

    Great Blog Erin
    One other little thing about running in the dead of winter : since you are dressed for running -better keep runnning once you’ve left home. Those lycras don’t allow the less hardcore of us to substitute a bit of walking here & there as we are prone to do in nice weather long runs!!
    Good luck with the training:))

  9. Ron Poirier says:


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