I hate running in the rain. I especially hate running in cold rain. In an odd twist though, I love running in the snow. In fact snow is my preferred running surface believe it or not. It always seems so much calmer and more private when you are the only one out there. Less cars are driving, the snow deadens a lot of typical background noise, and less people are out. And when it is snowing hard, let’s face it, it is also badass to come back from a run looking like a real life snowman.
In order to run in these conditions you need to be prepared. I see alot of people head out and struggle, and basically sell themselves short for most of Winter. If you are in a colder area, don’t back down, lean into it.
For starters, you need to be careful and use your brain when you head out the door. I DO NOT recommend running when the plows are still running or people are fooling around. I can recall an evening when I headed out for a local loop and kids were out doing donuts and drifts on a looping road I was on. It hadn’t been plowed yet, and they didn’t see me. Suffice to say they were not able to stop and I had to quickly get out of the way or risk being mushed. (Spoiler alert: I made it). I also remember another time when the plow truck used me as target practice and had no qualms with burying me where I stood. Keep these things in mind for not only when you run, but where you run. I still prefer parks or wooded trails to the roads when possible. Ideally, you hit these after the dog walkers, snowshoers, and X-Country skiers have been through. Running on packed snow is way easier than breaking trail yourself. It also keeps you warmer and dryer for longer.
When running in the snow, for anything more than a coating I put on Yaktrax. For those not familiar with Yaktrax, they are a rubber / elastic tread that you slip on over your shoe for better traction. I am very particular about my Yaktrax these days, and believe it or not, I do not like the “Run” model. This version has a microspike in the front with a coil along the back of the foot. I think the spike is meant to be less intrusive on the gait, and the front velcro is very secure to avoid slippage. But in my experience once on they don’t move, and the microspike just doesn’t cut it for anything but the thinnest snow cover. Because you push off the front of your foot, you really need good grip there. I have also managed to bend and rip out the spikes in a single run when I encountered clear pavement. You can never be sure the full conditions, so running on dry surfaces shouldn’t damage them. Instead of the “Run” I much prefer the “Pro” model. These are made with a series of criss-crossing coils, and have NEVER let me down. Full on storms, ice, pavement, wooded trails you name it, perfect. I also have run with them on dry roads and really don’t notice them at all. They allow me to go full tilt with no noticeable difference. This is huge. (YakTrax)
Now when you do head out for that supercool run, keep a few things in mind. It is generally easier to run in tire tracks. These are packed down a bit and give you the best grip. The downside is that the track is there because that is where cars drive. Cars + Snow – Stopping = Bad. This is when you absolutely need to follow the term “defensive running”. Don’t assume the drivers can see you, especially if it is snowing out. You have to run against traffic to keep an eye on them, and you should where a vest or contrasting colors depending on the conditions. Assuming you are on the road when a car does come, and move to the side, do not keep running if the snow is deep. Just like with leaves you can’t see what is under the snow. It is very easy to twist an ankle on a hidden obstacle resulting in yet another walk of shame. (Only 1 this year for me.) One other piece of advice is to take the turns with caution. You might feel bulletproof with your Yaktrax on, but I have seen a wipe out or two in my day with an over aggressive right. Just relax, nobody is watching anyway.
Try as we may to run, sometimes the snow is just too deep. What then? Well I recently found snowshoes to be a great way to keep moving and go places I couldn’t normally go. You may be surprised to know that you can run fairly naturally in snowshoes. Don’t expect to break any mile records, but within a few minutes running across deep powder is easy. Depending on where you live, there are even snowshoe races. Although I wouldn’t consider myself an expert, I recommend Atlas snowshoes. There are less expensive options out there, but splurge, you deserve it. I don’t wear any special footwear or gaiters when I run in them, just my normal running pants and Asics sneakers. Depending on the snow type I might double up with some thicker wool socks. For example if it was lighter powder where I would be sinking in more. I also leave the poles at home, but that is me.
So there you have it, two ways to conquer the snowiest conditions and keep the run streaks alive. I know I keep yanking the excuses away, but trust me, I won’t do a writeup for running in the rain. On those days you have my explicit permission to hit the indoor bike instead.