Running in a Winter Wonderland

December Streak Week 3

I hate being cold. And yet, last Sunday, on a twenty-something degree December morning, the day after the first snow of the season, I found myself toeing the line for a race, numb fingers barely able to select a podcast to keep me company. 

Two years ago, this would have been unheard of. Forty degrees was my limit. I was perfectly content spending my winters on the treadmill or the elliptical, passing the time watching SportsCenter. Then, I got into a long-term, committed relationship. With a running buddy. Who hates the treadmill. Who talked me into a spring half-marathon.

And, you know what? It’s not so bad. As with so many things I’ve undertaken since I decided to become a triathlete, I’ve proved to myself I can do it. 

If you’re thinking about stepping off the treadmill and heading outdoors this winter, here are some things that have been helpful to me. 

Get a buddy. Warm, cozy bed or pre-dawn trot in freezing temperatures? If I didn’t know someone would be waiting for me, I can guarantee what decision I would make. Misery truly does love company, and your extremity-numbing run goes much faster with someone to regale you with her latest tales of real-life drama. 

If you don’t have a running pal, bug any friend who shows the remotest interest in running with you until you wear her down. Well, at least this was my approach, but there are probably better ways.

For ladies, one good resource is the Women’s Running Clubs page at My personal favorite is Moms Run This Town, which has free chapters where local runners can find each other. (As the name would indicate, mothers are the target group, but don’t let that scare you off if you’re looking for a running group.) 

Or just ask your gym or local running store if they have a group. And then commit to showing up. Tell someone what you’re doing. Post it on the social media of your choice. Don’t let yourself opt out. 

Register for a race. As with the buddy system, paying your good money for a race, in advance, decreases the chance you’ll back out. There are a ton of fun wintertime races. Turkey trots for Thanksgiving. Ugly sweater runs at Christmastime. Resolution runs or even midnight races for the new year. Somehow, shivering with a few hundred other crazies seems to warm the heart, if not the toes. 

Gear up. Get a pair of of fleece-lined running tights, a lightweight insulated hoodie or jacket, a neck warmer, and a fleece headband. You’ll want to bundle up, but don’t go overboard. Your base layer should be breathable. Sweating under your layers can make you feel colder. Depending on where you live, you probably won’t need to be all fleece-lined, all the time, but for the coldest days, this is a worthy investment. 

With the shorter days, make sure you’re able to see and be seen. Get a headlight or easy-to-carry flashlight. (I use Knuckle Lights, which are designed for runners.) And a reflective vest or light-up arm bands are a must, especially if you’re running on the road. Finally, consider getting some spikes for traction in the ice, like Yaktrax removable cleats. 

With all this winter running, I am halfway through my December exercise streak, and I haven’t missed a day yet. If you’re doing well on your goals, too, you deserve a reward. Next week, 31 gifts for yourself under $31. 

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