Heavy rain and 25 miles per hour wind gusts challenged thousands of runners at the 122nd Annual Boston Marathon last April. Reports that these conditions were among the coldest in the marathon’s history probably wouldn’t stop contestants from enduring those elements again next year – or even on their personal running time. Hey, when you’ve got a marathon to run and goals to accomplish after months of grueling training – you push through it all!
That’s one of the traits that makes runners so resilient – our ability to become “weather warriors” is put to the test when we’re forced to face the elements (or if we simply don’t have a choice).
So, could you be a “weather warrior” when it comes to running? If you welcome weather extremes – be it the freezing cold/snow or the scorching heat/humidity – it could be the challenge of enduring different conditions that stirs your running passionate.
Testing your endurance through some of the toughest temperatures could also make you a better runner and help you tune in to your physical boundaries – as long as you’re safe while crossing them! Staying committed to your training routine may be more important than worrying about the “comfort” or safety factor of going on that long run in hazardous weather.
Those who live in regions where the climate is consistently one extreme or the other don’t have a choice when it comes to being physically active outdoors – think about places where it’s always as cold as Antarctica, or in contrast the humidity and the heat of places like the Caribbean islands or Africa.
Natives of these regions have made all sorts of wardrobe adjustments necessary to brave the outdoors, no matter how long or short their activities may be. How can you really determine if you have what it takes to run in extreme weather or if it’s worth testing your endurance in challenging environments? You may not be a candidate to swim with Coney Island’s Polar Bear Club any time soon and plunge yourself into icy waters on New Year’s Day just to prove you can handle anything, but you can always consider a test run to find out what your physical boundaries are in all types of weather!
Testing Out Those Threads
Before we become ferocious athletes, all-weather runners usually endure quite a few wardrobe changes before we know what works best for us in different settings (also taking into consideration what our fellow athletes and experts suggest will keep us safe so we don’t suffer from heat stroke or frostbite).
On one hand, of course, you want to bundle up for that 10 mile run in sub-zero temperatures and avoid frostbite by all costs! It’s freezing! You may start with a thermal shirt, then a sweatshirt over that, and finally a winter jacket with a scarf around your neck will keep you somewhat warm.
At the same time, the body’s blood circulation rate will change and you’ll work up a sweat as your cardio gets pumping. Eventually, you’ll be perspiring under all of those layers in the midst of the run and that could infringe on your comfort, mobility, and performance. Adjusting your wardrobe, in conjunction with wearing skin-tight garments that will lock in your body heat, is a constant process you may have to experiment with a few times.
It may take multiple trips to sporting goods stores and some hefty investments in a variety of pants/shirts/socks to better assess what will get you through that run or big race in which you’re about to compete.
Another factor to consider when running in new clothes is basing your wardrobe on the length and distance you’re going to be trekking. Some running pants/tops may fair great on a 5K run along a snowy path for a half hour, for example. But an hour or more in those pants may not provide the comfort/flexibility you need to keep going.
One of the most uncomfortable – and embarrassing – things that can happen during an extreme weather run is a wardrobe malfunction. Perhaps you’ve considered all types of tangibles when suiting up, but when you actually hit the pavement, you find yourself readjusting layers of pants or trying to keep sweat-soaked tops from interfering in your natural running movements.
After the trial and error period, runners will reach a point where they know exactly what kind of gear they need to survive the elements while keeping up with their training. If you’ve ever seen a runner who isn’t afraid to wear spandex shorts in the frigid winter while everyone else is freezing in their day-to-day clothes, well – there’s an athlete who found their happy medium!
It’s What’s Under There That Also Counts!
No one really likes to talk about what happens to their undergarments during a run in the extreme heat/cold! For women, it can be the harsh chafing of a sports bra when they’re sweating excessively or the discomfort of underwear that doesn’t exactly mesh well with the material of their running pants/shorts. For men, it could be the bunching or tightness of fabric that keeps everything in place while making those miles.
As an example for ladies, running in the heat is no time to test out those new barely-there thongs or for men, those tight fitting briefs that can cause mega discomfort and bunching several miles into your run!
While the stuff you wear underneath your running clothes during tolerable weather is obviously important, the real test is being able to rely on your unmentionables under different challenging conditions.
Accessories Are A Must!
Whether you’re bringing extra bottles of water strapped to a harness on your hips so you’re well hydrated on those sweltering hot days or you’re wearing gloves and holding heat packs in your palms so you don’t lose sensation in your hands in the cold, extreme weather calls for bringing more accessories with you on a run.
You may welcome the idea of being a weather warrior if you’re prepared to run with a few items either in your hand or somewhere on your body. There are plenty of slim/flat waist pouches you can sport while running that won’t interfere with your movements. The belt pouches also have room to store nutrition bars for refueling, something that’s just as important to do on long runs under normal conditions.
“Nor Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Heat Nor Gloom…”
The popular mailman’s creed doesn’t have to be echoed by passionate runners, but many feel that braving extreme conditions adds a little “danger and spice” to their training, not to mention that others will wonder why we’re trying to prove how ferocious we are.
Sure, a light drizzle may not be reason enough to call off a run – and certainly isn’t a hard battle to fight if you’re wearing a hoodie or cap on your head. What may start out as a slight nuisance – running with gentle droplets pelting down on you – can turn into thunderstorms and a steady rainstorm that drenches every inch of your outfit, a scenario the Boston Marathon runners know all too well!
You may want to rough it out in the pouring rain and simply be cautious of wet and slippery pavement. Running in the rain carefully is half the battle of enjoying the experience. However, consider the fact that you may soon be sloshing around in heavily soaked socks and sneakers if you chose to go on a long run when it’s pouring outside.
When it comes to compromising the integrity of your running shoes, wearing them while they’re wet for too long, especially after a run, may shorten their lifespan. Let’s not forget about the foul odors and fungus that could grow inside of your sneakers if they don’t dry correctly. Improper drying of sneakers can change the shape of the foam, ruining their sustainability for future treks. As a tip, experts recommend putting wads of newspaper inside of your sneakers to speed up the drying process – they also advise against drying them in any place with direct heat, like a drier or in front of an electric heater, as it can ruin the material.
Running along snowy/sleet-strewn trails are the more dangerous treks among all-weather runners. You’re not going to wear the same lightweight mesh running sneakers on icy and slushy trails as you do on clear roads. Subsequently, if you’re not afraid to spend a little extra money on all- terrain kicks made of heavy duty insulated and waterproof materials like Gore-tex, you may be ready to hit the trail.
A sturdy pair of sneakers that you can wear while running in the snow – which could cost you around $200 – are built different and may change your running form since their soles are thicker and designed to tackle slush and snow. Many companies will tout that their snow-tackling sneakers are “lightweight”, but you may wind up sporting a sneaker that’s laced up higher on your ankle and has more moisture-wicking layers to help keep your feet dry, so your speed and form may not be the same as it is when you’re wearing those simple and flexible running Nikes you’ve been sporting for years.
When Things Heat Up
The dangers of running in the heat doesn’t really make us runners “weather warriors” – it mostly makes us susceptible for heat rashes, heat exhaustion/stroke, and dehydration – just to name a few risks! The sweat factor could be annoying during a run, and it’s obvious that you need to pack more fluids and possibly a cool, soaked cloth to wrap around your head/shoulders. But are you ready for the dermatological aspects of a run in the hot, hot sun?
Making a trek in the heat means wearing fewer clothes, therefore exposing your skin to harmful rays for however long you’re out there. If it’s super sunny and hot on the day you choose to challenge yourself to that one “extreme weather” run, don’t forget to lather yourself with sunscreen! The painfulness of a sunburn, accompanied by redness, blisters, and peeling is often worse than the muscular effects of the run itself!
Your best bet is to cover yourself with the highest SPF- experts recommend a minimum of SPF 30- based on how strong the UV index is projected to be that day, along with how far/long you’re planning on running. You may need to put a small, portable packet of SPF in your pocket or belt to reapply every hour if you’re planning on a longer run than usual.
Of course, if you’re attempting that hot run and develop a headache or your body simply isn’t performing well because of the stifling heat, this extreme environment just may not be for you and that’s okay too!
No matter what type of climate you want to challenge yourself to run through, don’t push yourself if it becomes dangerous to your health.
The nearly 30,000 Boston marathoners didn’t have a choice on their 26.2-mile trek, but some runners are made to push their limits. Knowing your limits and if you can tolerate harsh conditions doesn’t mean you’re a “wimp” who can’t handle a challenge, it just means you’re a runner who doesn’t have to go to extremes to prove you’re awesome!