Monday, January 18, 2016

Free Falling: How Not To Run In The Winter

It was a snow storm. Post after post that appeared on my Facebook feed on Saturday was about the miles my running friends logged that morning.

"Icy run on the Greenway this morning. Great to see a ton of ... people out doing the same." 

"Very icy run this morning."

" ... I also ran or skated 11 miles. Good run, though."

With each click through, I felt like a tiny piece of my membership card to the Bad Ass Running Club was being ripped off. Piece by piece by piece.

I was scheduled to run Saturday, it was true. I was to meet the girls at 1 p.m. but I had also picked up a morning class, filling in for a friend. The 10:30 a.m. start threw a wrench into the family schedule and it made it difficult to make the meet-up. So I bailed. I was bummed but knew it was the right call for everyone involved.

And so at 3 p.m., I headed out for my run. But after seeing the reports on social media and seeing pictures of someone who slipped on ice between running loops at an area trail, breaking his ankle, the YMCA treadmill seemed like a better option.

The minute I hit "Quick Start" my bad ass card went up in flames.

But from the ashes we rise and on Sunday, I had a chance to redeem myself.

It was 20 degrees. Real feel was in the single digits. The grassy areas of the park were frosty but the path seemed passable. And I was going with Joe, who is the antitheses of a diva runner. I knew that no matter how frightful the conditions, it would be a good run.

We headed southeast and were managing just fine. Always a gentleman, Joe let me take the lead when we needed to go single file around some large patches of ice. The instances of questionable conditions led us to walk sections or take it to the grass. We chatted. We caught up. We had a good time.

By the time we hit the turn around, though, snow began to fall. The once visible sections of ice were now covered, and we no longer knew where to be mindful. We would have to relay on memory and past experiences. In essence, it was a crap shoot – one that had us sliding around and laughing at ourselves.

And that's where it's important to take some precautions to avoid falling flat on your ass.

Wear trail shoes or shoes with good grip/read. Or you can be like me and wear your oldest shoes that are within 50 miles of being retired. Nothing like worn spots to help you glide on the ice.

Avoid areas that have a history of being wet/slick. It might not be fun to run loops or short out-and-backs but safety is worth it. Or, you can do what we did and run what you want – even if the trail is right on the river and a half-mile section regularly floods in the spring/summer. There's nothing like the threat of a fall into an icy river to keep you upright. 

About face. As in watch face. As in don't look at it. When running in snow or ice, pace goes out the winder. You should be grateful for time on your feet and covering a certain distance. Or you can be like me when you get excited to see faster splits and try to keep momentum.

Stride right. Smaller steps and making sure your feet land underneath your hips will help keep you steady. Of course, you can run for pace, overstride and lose balance more than once. Whatevs.

Anyone want to guess what happened? Yep. I fell. Flat on my ass. Quite literally, actually. I had no idea that I was going to fall until I felt the cold ice on my glutes. It was actually better that way. I didn't contort my body to try to stop it from happening nor did I put my hands out to catch me.

As luck would have it, too, I fell with about a half-mile to go. I just had to make it through 5 or so minutes of running on a sore butt before I could go put it on ice.


What are your tips for winter running?


  1. I've been wondering about this. My footing is marginal at best where we live, since the snow just seems so much slicker than where I'm from. I learned the hard way last week that trail/approach shoes are way more practical than runners, and I wasn't even running. You are braver than me.

  2. Yaktrax! I'm not a speedy runner by any means, but I have never once fallen or even slipped while wearing my Yaktrax.

  3. Screw shoes! (That's an adjective, not a verb.) I use an older pair of trail shoes and put about 8 screws into each shoe with an electric drill. They've got incredible grip on packed snow or soft ice, and decent grip even on hard ice. They're awesome for winter running.
    Just don't wear them on your hardwood floors.