Winter Running

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

When we came to live in New York eight years ago the idea of running in the cold was an alien concept for me. Growing up as a runner in tropical Singapore meant year round heat and humidty. I did not have the survival skills (or the clothes – but more about that later) to cope with sub-zero temperatures and icy sidewalks.

This morning I covered 12 miles on snowy, icy trails in Rockefeller State Park Preserve with my running buddy, Kelly. In my first few years here about half an hour in the cold was all I could manage.  Today we were out for two hours in the type of weather and trail conditions that had scared off most of the regulars. We only spotted about five other runners!

Swan Lake was on a frosty winter's day.

Swan Lake on a frosty winter’s day.

And on Friday I got on a train at half past six in the morning to run with two of my work running buddies in Central Park. It was 28 degrees F with the occasional snowflake.  Somewhere along the way I’ve morphed into an all-weather runner.

I am not a natural winter bunny. In fact I think I’m quite unattractive in cold weather. My nose goes red, my fingers go numb. Give me a hot, summer day any time. But along the way I’ve managed  to adapt to colder running conditions and what has made the biggest difference is learning to dress right.

Mositure-wicking layers, warm tights, a hat or headband and, most importantly for me, the right sort of gloves, have allowed me to get out on days that would have had me hunkering down under a blanket a few years ago.

I learnt through trial and error what I needed to keep my body happy during winter runs. Too many layers and I’d start sweating too soon and end up chilled. What works for me is a mositure-wicking layer closest to the skin, a warm insulating middle layer and a jacket if it is windy or wet.

I have to admit I’m a believer in some of the new high-tech fabrics. Plain old cotton really doesn’t cut it for me in winter.  Frozen fingers were a big problem. I discovered that a pair of mittens was the solution. On our recent trip to the UK I bought a pair of hooded fingerless mittens in the children’s department for five pounds ($8) –  perfect for taking photos during a cold run.

Navigating an icy path in Rockefeller.

Navigating an icy path in Rockefeller.

I also had to learn to run on snow and ice.  I’m terrified of falling when I walk the icy path to our train station in winter. But for some odd reason I am not afraid of running on icy/snowy trails (a sheet of ice is another story). After five years living outside New York City I’m now comfortable with tackling snowy off-road paths. I love the crunch of frozen snow under my feet and a bright blue sky overhead.  And as an additional benefit  snowy trails provide strength training getting you to use muscles you barely knew you had.  And because I’m not a fast runner having to go slower doesn’t bother me.

My favourite kind of winter's day - sunny with blue skies.

My favorite kind of winter’s day – sunny with blue skies.

Next week will be a test of my ability to cope with the cold. Temperatures in the morning are expected to be around 13 degrees F (or -10 C).  Something to look forward to! Or not.

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