Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From Texas to Boston: Running in the Cold

Apparently the start of December, and winter, in Massachusetts was incredibly mild this year.  That all came to an end just before I flew from my cool but temperate central TX to my parents' home in the Boston area.  I arrived on Christmas eve, in the afternoon, and had packed and prepared for morning runs every day of my visit.  After all, what is a vacation without regular running?  While the Mass air felt very chill to me as I left Logan airport, I put it out of my mind, taking solace in the knowledge that I had packed tights, long sleeved wicking shirts, gloves and a running hat.

Christmas morning arrived with grey skies and very cold temperatures.  I woke up and checked the thermometer outside the bathroom window, which registered between 10 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  I briefly contemplated returning to bed, given that I had not tackled such temperatures in nearly a year.  However, the thought of doing so was shameful enough that I instead pulled on my tights, two layers of long sleeved tech shirts, gloves and a hat.  Before I could sink into a small and cold puddle, I put on my Garmin and headed out the front door.  The cold air sent a chill through me immediately, and because the Garmin had not located satellites, I was forced to continue standing, very still, for about 2 minutes.

Shortly after I started running, my muscles and extremities felt much more comfortable and I could feel blood circulating throughout my body.  My face still felt cold and raw and there is an unpleasant feeling that settles in your throat from continually sucking in chilly air.  Nonetheless, the simple act of running brought my body temperature into balance.  That is, unless I found myself stopped at an intersection.  A lack of motion meant the immediate return of frigidity.

Toward the end of my run, the wind had picked up and the tips of my fingers and toes were permanently and uncomfortably chilled.  This was especially surprising because I was wearing fleece mittens.  I cannot remember another time that they were not sufficient to keep me warm.  When I finished the run (a hearty 8.43 miles), I took a very nice and deserved hot shower and drank some hot tea to return my body temperature to normal.  The rest of my family still lives in Mass, and therefore this weather was not out of the ordinary.  I, however, was very pleased by my fortitude.

The three days following Christmas have brought considerably milder weather and with it easier and more comfortable running conditions.  On the 26th, I headed out with a hat and gloves, but quickly shed the gloves at the trail head where I was running, and retrieved them before heading home.  On the 27th, I went into Boston and ran along the Emerald Necklace.  The weather was in the high 30s, warm enough for me to go sans hat and gloves!  And while the trend continued this morning, the weather has now changed again, with temperatures in the 20s tomorrow and a very heavy wind chill to accompany it.

Getting out of a warm bed for the prospect of a run in the cold air is not often appealing to a groggy runner.  What I have learned over the years though is that more often than not, with the proper dress and a consistent pace, one will be warm enough.  So tomorrow, and the rest of the time I am here in Massachusetts, I will remind myself that the chilly conditions are nothing that a little running can't cure.

Happy Holidays!


  1. You're tougher than me, Amanda! Facing milder weather than you I only got one run in. It requires a lot of will-power to go outside, though strangely once you're running it's fairly easy. When running in the cold I too am surprised by how cold my hands get even with gloves. I attribute the rapid air movement which convects heat away.

  2. Hey ChemE,

    With the exception of last Tuesday and Wednesday, things have been pretty mild in CT for running. I must admit though that I tend to head out for my runs a little later than in warmer weather. Good job getting out there.

    One thing I do when it's real cold is to use a bandanna over my mouth as I run. Your breath sort of preheats things and it's helped me. In regard to your hands, try getting a real thin pair of gloves that can act as a liner to your mittens.