How I am preparing to run two races in the Chicago’s snowy cold winter.

I recently had my first run in the snow when I was back in Omaha visiting family over Thanksgiving. Fortunately, I brought my Nike Dri-Fit gloves, some joggers, a hoodie, and a stocking cap, but my Brooks Ravenna 9 shoes were not ideal for running in the snow. The specific day I am speaking of was 20 degrees, had strong wind gusts, but at least the snow had just stopped falling when I went for my run. I was not trying to set any speed record and was merely planning on a 65 minute light run.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Omaha, it is quite hilly, particularly compared to the Chicago streets here at home. My in-laws’ house, where I was staying, is also located on a pretty substantial hill, so it was challenging from the start. I made it down the hill they live on okay, but it wasn’t two blocks later when I hit a slippery spot on a neighbor’s driveway and came crashing down. My forearm tool most of the impact, but despite some initial pain, I was not injured at all.

From then on out I merely ran in their suburban street until I got to a local trail. The remainder of my run was relatively uneventful. I hit a few slick spots here and there, but those were minor compared to the nasty wind gusts that were pounding snow in my face. Thank goodness my wintery beard is in full effect, although it was full of snow by the time I was done thanks to the wind.

Running In Snow and Rain

I always found something therapeutic about running the snow or running in the rain. I have had some of my best runs in the rain. As long as I have a baseball cap to keep the rain from hitting me in the face, I can just hit another gear when running in the rain. While you can’t maintain the speed that you can in the rain due to slipperiness, that therapeutic aspect is still there for me in the snow. Additionally, running in the snow and the rain makes me feel a little bit like a badass for some reason. I recognize this is a bit ridiculous, but it probably has something to do with the way people react to either seeing you running in the conditions or hearing that you were running in these states.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with running in the rain or snow it that it can force you to use different muscles. Last summer I was back home visiting my parents in Kansas and ran nine miles on the sand roads near their house when it was raining. I enjoyed the extra cushion during the run, but my calves and hamstrings were messed up for the next week from the different surface. I have not experienced this effect with snow, but I have heard of snow causing this problem with many of other runners.

Winter in Chicago

I usually am not much of an outdoor runner in the winter. Typically, I opt to hit the treadmill at my local gym anytime it is below freezing. However, I am planning on running a New Years Eve 5k and considering a half marathon in January on Chicago’s Lakefront. As a result, I am trying to get myself as conditioned as possible to run in nasty weather conditions.

The trickiest part about running in the city when it has snowed is the variety of surfaces you encounter on sidewalks. Depending on how long into or after the snow it is, 1/3 of the people may have freshly shoveled their sidewalks to the concrete, 1/3 may have shoveled theirs a few days before and a fresh layer of powder has accumulated, and the remainder may have not even touched their sidewalks. This condition means that you are continually changing surfaces every 25 to 100 feet and makes it very difficult to adjust to the environment precisely.

To avoid injury, I am slowly conditioning my legs to the snow. Since I’ve been back in the city, I’ve only been going about 2/3 of a mile (gym is about 1/3 mile away) outside in the snow until this evening’s run. The temperature is in the 40s, and it has been raining all day. As a result, all of the sidewalks are now clear of snow and ice. The cold air was a bit of a shock to my lungs and ears going hard for 5 miles, but all in all, it was a pretty good run.

Equipment

I am looking at getting a trail running shoe to prepare myself for what looks like what may be a pretty nasty winter and some upcoming snowy runs. I was also looking at something like Yaktrax run traction cleats, but they say specifically not to run directly on concrete in them so I think the change in surfaces may not work well with this product. Let me know if anyone has any insight on wintery runs or recommendations for trail running shoes.

Join me in my efforts to support Liver Life Challenge!

In 2019, I have decided to run the Chicago Marathon to support the American liver foundation. As a participant in the Liver Life Challenge, I’m helping in the fight against liver disease, but I can not do it without your help. Every step I take and every dollar I raise will make a difference in the lives of the millions of Americans living with liver disease. By donating on my behalf, you will be helping the American Liver Foundation provide critical funding for medical research, public education, and patient support services.