My Coldest Ever Running Week

by Paul Thompson

This past week I broke my all-comers record. It was the coldest week of running I have ever done. The week in numbers looked like this:

Mileage  – 78 miles (see my log)

Highest run temperature – 36F/2C (32F/0C with wind chill)

Lowest run temperature – 14F/-10C (6F/-15C with wind chill)

Oddly the week started unseasonably warm. When I stepped out to do an easy 10 with fellow Warren Street runner Danny Tateo last Sunday it was 36 degrees fahrenheit (F) or 2 degrees celsius (C). But when I went for a steady 8 miler on Monday morning, a holiday owing to the Martin Luther King Day, and by chance the day of President Obama’s official inauguration, temperatures had started to plummet. It was in the high 20sF, sub-zero celsius.

Before I descibe the rest of the week’s running a few words about fahrenheit (F)and celsius (C). Until I moved to the US in 2004 I worked in C and had done since I was a teenager. Back then, in the mid- seventies, the UK was moving over to the metric scale and the BBC weather man would quote both scores: in C and in what he called ‘in old money F’. To convert one to the other see NOAA.

Waiting for the train on the platform at Peekskill Railroad Station, exposed to the elements and staring at a mile wide expanse of the Hudson River, on Tuesday morning was seriously cold. It was 20F (-7C) but the wind chill translated that to a ‘feels like’ 2F (-17C). At 7pm, after a 25 minute ‘warm-up’ from my office on Fifth Avenue, I joined a few other hard core Warren Street runners at the Boathouse for a workout.

The view from Peekskill Station - Peekskill Bay frozen and covered with snow.

Peekskill Bay frozen and covered with snow

The weather was much the same as the morning. We did the workout, 3 times 6 minutes with 2 minutes recovery, a little slower but with faster jog recoveries than usual. At certain exposed points in the park, such as the North Meadow the wind whipping across our bows was bitter.

Tuesday set the tone for the week. Wednesday morning on the platform it was 9F (-13C), -5F (-21C) with windchill. I ran a steady 8 that evening in slightly warmer conditions. As a kid I came to appreciate what zero celsius (0C, 32F) looked and felt like (for example, water froze). Living through winters in the North East US I’ve now gotten familar with what 0F (-18C) is like. F…g cold (FC).

Many, especially non-running workmates, asked how I coped. Well actually it was not that bad. Starting out in Midtown Manhattan helped: the tall buildings provided shelter from the wind. By the time I’d gotten to Central Park my engine room was fired up.

As for what I wore well typically a thin base layer under my Sugoi Midzero Zip, Sugoi SubZero Tights, thick thermal gloves and Sugoi MidZero Headwarmer.  I like Sugoi. I was just warm enough so long as I did not run slowly. My cold spots were cheeks and finger tips.

In my winter running gear.

In my winter running gear including Sugoi headwarmer.

On Thursday I did a 5 mile tempo with two Warren Street mates. Not surprisingly it was a bit slower than the previous week. As we ran past the Tavern on the Green heading south at 7pm I glanced up to see the CNN temperature sign, atop its headquarters on Columbus Circle, read 16F (-9C). It was much colder with wind chill.

I closed the week with 23 miles early Saturday morning. There’d been light snow over night leaving a blanket of white on the bridle paths of Central Park. The sky was a cloudless blue. It was 20F (-7C), the highest temperature for 5 days. It felt like a heatwave. Well you know what I mean.

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