What to Wear for Winter Runs

Running in New England Winters

Today was one of those classic Boston winter mornings.  A fresh layer of snow on the ground, and weather with no hopes of reaching above freezing; however, beautifully sunny. When I first saw the weather, I really had no desire to run.  At 8AM it said it “felt” like 5 degrees.  I decided to skip a group trail run and sleep and wait for the high of 25 to warm up.  That was my first mistake, I let myself get intimidated by the cold.  

By noon the high of 25 was still missing and I decided if I waited any longer I would be running in the dark and with snowy, icy patches forming that would probably be less fun than running in the freezing but sunny cold.

Surprisingly, it was a lot less cold than expected.  In fact I ended with a great run of 21.6 miles at an average pace of about 8:20.  What slowed me down wasn’t the cold but me constantly keeping an eye out for ice.  Luckily I only ran across a few places that made me slide a bit.  The snow on the ground was still there but because it never got warmer, it didn’t melt, and instead of scary ice that could kill me, I had a soft patch of powder to run on most of the time.

Winter Running Layers

Confession.. this was my first or second time running in 20 degree weather.  Last year when I first started marathon training, I opted for the treadmill whenever it hit below 25 degrees.  However, now that I’m training for a 50 miler, with double long runs on the weekend, treadmill is something I would like to avoid if I can.

Second part of the confession was that when I first started to layer, I overdressed myself.  I wore a windbreaker, and flannel pants in addition to everything above.  That got very warm and unbearable after about half a mile when I slowly crawled my way back home to undress.

After a small failure, above is the combination that I found worked for me on the rest of the run.  The weather was sunny and relatively calm winds; therefore, it was not as cold as it could be for 20 degrees.  I started with sock liners, tights, and a tech t-shirt.  Next I added a second pair of thick running socks, and a long sleeve tech shirt from a race.  For my final layer, I wore my UnderArmour Cold Gear long sleeve, hat, gloves, and of course my running shoes.  The links are not exactly what I wore, but similar articles.  The only part of what I wore that is specific is my UnderArmour Mock turtleneck.  It’s soft, wicks away sweat really well and most of all never rolls up like other things I’ve tried for winter running.  I’ve probably worn it almost every cold weekend since last year.

With enough experimenting, there is probably a great way to layer for any run unless you’re a cool cat like Jack.  Winter Cat Walking

Jack and I had a very lovely walk around the house as I waited for the day to get warmer.  He didn’t appreciate it when I told him it’s cold and I want to go back inside.  Clearly he wanted to go running with me but we couldn’t agree on a direction.

The good news, after today, 20 degree runs have become a lot less intimidating.  Now if only I could force myself to wake up early enough to make the group runs.

8 thoughts on “What to Wear for Winter Runs”

  1. Great post! I definitely get intimidated by this weather and always think the runners I see outside are seriously hardcore. Luckily, I’m not training for any races right now so I can afford to stick to the treadmill. Under armor is essential though!

  2. That is a really good pace on a long run in that weather. Good job! I am always afraid that I will slip on ice that is underneath the snow. Sometimes I get to brave and stop paying attention and then BAM! I hit the ground. Not fun. 🙂

  3. Great tips! My favorite thing to wear in cold weather is a fitted running tank with a shelf bra. Keeps the cold wind from working it’s way to my belly…

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