Jan 11, 2010

Essential gear for winter running

IMO, I think training for my spring marathon is THE BEST. Living in Cincinnati, I get my share of winter weather. Freezing rain is the typically biggest problem. We seem to be right in that spot where too often it's snow an hour north of us, and rain an hour south. But we also get our fair share of days in the 20's with gusting winds. Personally, I love running in the cold, and wind, and snow. Hate driving in the snow, but I love running while it snows. Something really peaceful about it. Freezing rain? Can't think of a damn good thing to say about it.

The worst, and best, days are those when it's stupid-cold and crazy-windy. Especially when it's on your scheduled long run day. But you have to get out there, and get that run in. At least, I do. Sometimes, to make myself feel tough, I'll think of the scene in the move "Forrest Gump" when Lt. Dan is on the mast of the ship, with the storm raging all around him, and he yells at God, "Is that all you got?!?" and then shrieks like a madman, and I'll think that's me today. Is that all you got, God?!? Because if it is, it's not enough to keep me from finishing this run! And then I swear under my breath, look at my Garmin to see how much further I have to go, and wonder how I became so stupid as to be out there running! LOL.

Anyway, some of my friends have asked me at times what I consider as "essential gear" for training in the winter. Let me start by saying, get the right gear, and you too can love running when the mercury drop below 32.

Here's my bare essential list:

1) "Coldgear" tops to wear as a base layer. On top of that, a technical shirt or jacket. If it's REALLY cold, you might double up on the shirt/jacket.
2) Lined running pants. I even have one pair that is fleece lined, by Champion, for the coldest of days. They're a bit heavy, and you definitely run slower, but nothing gets through those. I try to get most of my running pants at TJMaxx, on the cheap.
3) Optional - 1-2 pair of running tights, for cold but not freezing days, or to wear under a light pair of pants that aren't warm enough by themselves
4) Wind briefs for long runs on windy days. For guys, this is REALLY important, trust me. Nothing worse than feeling like you can't run b/c your ballz are frozen and the wind is making it infinitely worse (I recommend the ones from Brooks, but there are several brands out there that you can find online. Running stores often carry them this time of year too.)
5) Smartwool socks
6) Fleece hats & gloves (more than one of each). You'll want to be able to put on DRY hates & gloves to start every run. Do not underestimate the importance of these. For me, nothing makes a run more miserable than ice-cold hands or freezing ears.
7) Sunglasses, not b/c the sun or the glare from the snow is so bright, but to keep your eyes from watering when running into a stiff headwind.
8) More than one pair of running shoes, so you can alternate b/w them. This is especially important if you often find your shoes are wet after a run.
9) Balaclava (not entirely necessary, but I'm a big fan of them now for those really windy days)

That's it, you're ready to run in the coldest of weather and ENJOY it.

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