If you've read this blog before, you know I'm all about running in the winter. If you want to run in the Minnesota winter, you can't mess around. It's cold, it's slippery, and it's dark. Although this winter has been comparatively mild, it's still takes some determination to get outside and brave the elements.
I've already written several posts on what you can do to have a successful winter running season (read a few of them here, here, and here), but you may be asking yourself, "why don't I just hang up my running shoes for a few months and run again in the spring when I don't look like I've lost my mind?"
I also sometimes wonder if I've lost my mind. The other day I was out running before work around 6 AM. It was dark, the windchill was below zero, and I really needed to pay attention to the twenty feet ahead of me illuminated by my head lamp. Looking for slick spots and lighting the path ahead is important to avoid a winter-style wipe out (they're far more painful, albeit drier, than a surfing wipe out).
As I watched my breath condense in front of me, somewhat obscuring my view as my headlamp cut through its fog, I had to wonder how sane this activity really was. My toes, fingertips, and face were freezing. Most people were still in bed, and even those working out probably had the sense to be in a well-lit gym.
While my less-than-sane feeling persisted, about three miles into my eight mile run I passed another runner braving the cold and darkness. Seeing another brave soul, dressed in bright, reflective clothing, helped me feel a little less insane, though I admit there must be something not quite right about me when I'm up a couple hours before the sun and running outside in a temperature where flesh can freeze in less than an hour.
So is it worth it to brave the sub-zero temperatures, the darkness, and the slippery sidewalks? I think so, but below is a list of pros and cons, so you can decide if running outside in the winter is worth the trouble.
Sweet icicles, or beardsicles as I like to call them, on my beard
There's rarely a need to carry water, even on long runs
Running when it's cold is generally more comfortable than when it's really hot
More pockets for keys, ID, and snacks in running jackets
More difficult to run during daylight hours
Often slippery running surfaces
More clothing required, and wrong clothing choices mean being too hot, or freezing
Freezing your nose, fingers, or worse
There it is--run outside in the winter, or don't. Personally, I think it's totally worth it. Running inside on a treadmill or around a track isn't the worse thing in the world, but I'd rather brave the cold and darkness most days than be stuck inside under the oppressive fluorescent lighting of the gym.