Tag Archives: climate

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.


Kuala Lumpur vs Singapore: Which is the Best Running City?

by Paul Thompson

On the way back from South East Asia I read this CNN article  comparing the two cities I’d just visited – Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It made me think how they compared as running cities.  I travelled back to New York from Kuala Lumpur via Singapore – 24 hours in the air and a 12 hour layover in Singapore meant I had bags of time to pen this comparison, using my wife’s categories for the best cities for running created for her recent blog post.

Both are barely a few degrees north of the equator, separated by about 200 miles. Hence, both experience almost identical tropical heat and humidity. This makes them less than ideal for running – as I complained in my last post. This tropical climate drives most indoors to the refuge of air conditioning and treadmills, leaving just the hard core, like former club runners at Singapore’s MR 25  and KL’s (as the locals call Kuala Lumpur) Pacesetters. However, Singapore enjoys the occasional breeze, due perhaps to its proximity to the sea, and cleaner air.

Verdict: Singapore

A view of KLCC Park taken from the Petronas Twin Towers.

Green Spaces
As cities that have grown rapidly green space is often crowded out by people, buildings and traffic. That said, both offer some great running routes in close proximity to the city centre. KL has its Lake Gardens and the adjacent green upscale residential district of Kenny Hills and the government quarter. And right in the city’s core is the running track at KLCC Park: a short circuit but with jaw dropping views of the majestic Petronas Twin Towers. But to get off road you need to head further out to places like Bukit Kiara, offering hundreds of acres of rain forest (sadly slowly being eaten away by condo developments). On the city’s outer fringes there are many rubber or palm oil plantations which offer endless miles of off road running, in the shade, on estate tracks.

Monkeys are a common site along the trails in MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore.

As I explained in my recent post, Singapore has a number of options including: MacRitchie Reservoir – miles of off road running routes through secondary rain forest; Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Singapore’s highest point which offers challenging off road running, some through primary rainforest; Bukit Brown – a Chinese cemetery about to be buried by an expressway: East Coast, a long thin strip of green running for miles from central Singapore to the airport (last week I anchored a second placed mixed team half ironman, running a 1:18 half marathon in 90F heat and 90% humidity – I was glad just to finish); and KTM rail line – a recently grassed over rail bed of almost 30 miles from the city centre to the far north of the island.

Verdict: Singapore

Sidewalks (aka pavements)
This is a no brainer. In Singapore you will find wide, level pavements and law abiding motorists. KL on the other hand combines some of the worst pavements anywhere with manic motorcyclists and taxi drivers, making its streets a dangerous obstacle course. KL’s pavements have entered local folklore. A few years back it was decided to pave almost every sidewalk with shiny mosaic tiles. Today many of these tiles are now broken, stolen, and pockmarked with ankle breaking holes. And when it rains  they might as well be an ice rink.

Verdict: Singapore

The Petronas Twin Towers are a stunning sight at night.

Both cities have eye popping cityscapes – stunning architectural buildings, old and new, to take your mind off the heat and humidity. KL has its Petronas Twin Towers  and KL Tower. Singapore, meanwhile, has even more to offer including its Esplanade (its answer to the Sydney Opera House), the Padang (a cricket field surrounded by colonial era buildings), the stunning new Marina Bay Sands, and the world’s largest big wheel, the Singapore Flyer. But while Singapore may have the edge in terms of architectural wonders KL has the vantage points from which to appreciate what it has.

The latest additions to Singapore’s skyline: The Flyer, the Esplanade building and Marina Bay Sands.

Verdict: KL

Bodies of Water
Singapore is a small island so not surprisingly you are never far from water. Even in the middle of the island there is the central catchment area, a cluster of reservoirs, some, like MacRitchie, circumnavigated by trails suitable for running. And then there are the drainage canals, which increasingly are accompanied by paths such as the Ulu Pandan Connector. KL, meanwhile, is land-locked and almost bereft of water aisde from a few small lakes such as those at the Lake Gardens and KLCC.

Verdict: Singapore

Overall Verdict: Both places, as former homes and home to friends and family, I like and miss very much. So choosing between them is hard. But for running at least Singapore wins by a neck.

What Makes a Good Running City?

by Shamala Kandiah Thompson

Paul and I never travel without our running shoes. Often the first thing we do when we arrive in a new place is put our shoes on and head out for a run. Reading this article in Forbes listing America’s best cities for running (Atlanta, Austin, Boulder, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Washington D.C. ) got me thinking about what I look for, as a runner, in a new city. Here’s my list:

Sidewalks: Broad, uncrowded sidewalks (or pavements as I call them) or cycle routes are key in cities. Running on roads present too big a risk. I’ve run in cities like Jakarta and Bangalore where the sidewalks are an obtacle course of vendors, or animals or both, and potholes.  Manhattan’s sidewalks are often clogged up with pedestrians: avoid streets with lots of shops like 5th Avenue (Park Avenue is best) or take to the East River Greenway or Hudson River Greenway.

Lots of races take place in Central Park throughout the year.

Green Spaces: A large park is a big draw for me. New York’s Central Park gets high marks for both size, views and accessibility. It’s the centerpiece of New York’s running scene. Other cities with good running parks include London where I’ve run in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park. But the best city for green spaces has to be Boulder with its 144 miles of trails. Combine that with altitude and you’re guaranteed a good, if somewhat tough, workout. (Check out our recent post. Boulder With the Boys, for  photos of off-road running in North Boulder.)

Routes: Interesting and scenic running routes can be a great way to savor a new city. A loop of the Mall covers the historic highlights of Washington D.C. from the Lincoln Memorial, National Monument and Reflecting Pool, to the Capitol building. Competitive runners can take in these sights on  the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.  Other cities that appear high on my list are Prague (for its classic architecture) Sydney (for its iconic Opera House, Harbour Bridge and harbor), and Hong Kong (for its breathtaking skyline, best viewed from Victoria Peak)

The view from Victoria Peak in Hong Kong is worth the hilly run to get there.

Paul being blown about on a run in Boston in April 2011.

Climate: I’m not a cold weather runner. I prefer warmer temperatures and as little wind as possible. Boston and Chicago (which are on the Forbes list) are often too blustery or cold for me. Paul, on the other hand, complains about the energy sapping humidity of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, although there are some good running routes in both cities. (He’ll be in both places soon so look out for posts about his former running haunts.)

Bodies of Water: I like water so cities with canals, lakes, rivers, sea-fronts are more likely to get my vote.  Paths around West Lake in Hanoi and along the Mekong River in Phnom Penh allow for enjoyable runs in not so runner-friendly cities.  And in my home country, Singapore, running through the Esplanade Park reveals views of the Singapore River set against the ever-changing Singapore cityscape.

The Singapore skyline with its mix of old and new buildings.