The first challenge with running outdoors during the winter months is staying warm, which I’ve written posts on previously and you can find them here. The second challenge is sharing the roads with vehicles of all sizes.
Most of us will be doing our running in the dark. This may not be anything new for you. Pull on your headlamp, tail light, and a reflective vest and presto you’re ready to go. I’ve always found it concerning that many winter running clothes are black. What’s up with that? In the winter, I suggest taking your lighting and reflection to a new level. Wear as much reflective gear as you can. Drivers are more distracted and focused on what is right in front of them if there is snow on the roads. They are anxious about sliding and watching for ice not runners. So light yourself up. Glow in the dark!
Sliding cars are a major issue for runners. Please don’t run with music playing during the winter months. Take it as a personal challenge to see where your mind can wander. Cars slide down hills, up hills, around corners, at stop signs, at stoplights, and at “Oh shit! What is that? a runner! What in the hell are they doing out in this mess?” Yes, my driving friends we run in horrible conditions and you will never understand. Stay on high alert, assume that drivers do not see you, and assume that they will lose control of their vehicle, if they haven’t already. Live to run another day.
Running on the shoulder of the road can be treacherous in the winter. There are ankle-rolling chunks of ice and daggers of ice waiting for you to fall. Sidewalks are hit and miss on whether they have been shoveled (this should be encouragement for you all to shovel and do a favor to your fellow runners who use the sidewalk). Most runners opt for running in the middle of the road where it has been cleared by the plows or by the driving of cars. Just be prepared to dive for the shoulder at a moment’s notice when a sliding car comes around the corner.
Snowplows are really big and dangerous to runners. We love them for clearing the snow from the roads, but they are the major cause of the ankle-rolling chunks of ice on the shoulders. If you are out during a storm or shortly after and there are plows out, be ready to switch to the opposite side of the road before they reach you or you are going to be showered with beautiful arch of road grime, ice, slush, and whatever else happened to be on the road as they pass.
I love running in the winter, it’s quiet and decorated with diamonds, but you have to stay on your toes. Maybe I love it for that reason too.