Coach Mike Mead

November 2011

Dress (not) to (be) Kill(ed)!

We’ve had some great running weather so far this fall, but winter is not too far off with the colder and sometimes windy conditions. I won’t jinx things by not mentioning that four-letter word – SNOW! What I dislike even more in the months ahead is less daylight to run in when I’m on my morning runs. So it is wise to plan ahead for the next few months to run wise and safe.

I love cool weather, but not frigid, bone-rattling cold that we get for an accumulation of maybe four weeks a year during the late fall and winter seasons. Running is great in that it does not require a whole lot of equipment – accept when the temperatures dip below 45 degrees. In the summer, guys can get away with running in shoes and shorts. In winter, some days require your entire wardrobe!

I use 45 degrees as a benchmark in that most runners can still run without hats, gloves and leggings like tights, or for old schoolers, sweat pants. But when the temps are below 45 degrees there can be some wind that can make it feel colder. So the conditions call for covering up and layering up!

But many runners, particularly newbees, don’t factor in body heat. I’ve mentioned this before in a couple of past writings that one must factor in for about a 15-20 degree variance from the time you start your run to the time you finish your run. Using my 45-degree benchmark, it’s going to feel like 60 to 65 degrees when you finish if the outdoor temps are 45 degrees when you start. Who runs in sweats when it is 65 degrees? Yeah, I know there are some folks who do wear sweats or tights when it is 65 degrees (some for perfectly legit reasons, mind you), but this is addressed to the diehard, or want-to-be serious runners.

When the weather is below 45 degrees, this runner breaks out the running tights, a long-sleeve T-shirt and gloves. I’ll also bring along ear warmers just in case, but I usually do not break out a hat until the temperature is in the mid-30’s. When it gets below 35 degrees, I’ll layer up with a jacket or windbreaker.

You want to be comfortable when you run, but you cannot start out feeling toasty-warm or you’ll just burn up and get uncomfortably sweaty! It takes a little practice what to wear, unless you limit your outdoor exposure which will mean you will always have problems adjusting.

Since I have been a morning runner for many years presents additional challenges during the winter. Besides being cold it is also dark most mornings from October to March. During the summer, running in the mornings means it is usually the coolest part of the day. Well you know what? It’s the same most winter mornings, too, but (brrrr) cold!

For a few years now, I’ve been bothered by the choices of colors men have for running apparel. The colors always seem to be dark colors like blue, black, gray, green and red. We do have white going for us and occasionally yellow and orange! So when it comes to winter morning runs wearing these dark colors, one becomes a running ninja – that is no one sees you! These running apparel companies do incorporate some reflective materials on shirts, shoes and tights that amount to about as much reflection as a bottle cap. Running manufacturers need to make bright-colored winter clothes for those of us running in the dark with plenty of reflective material!

It is very important that if you are running in the dark to be seen and not run over. Morning runners should not assume the car driving by is someone going off to work. They could be coming home from work being very tired, or coming home drunk from a night out on the town. There are also drivers who drive distracted and those, should I just say, have limited driving skills? So, don’t assume just because you are running on a sidewalk that you are safe.

If you must run in the dark, run in well-lit areas on sidewalks, wear plenty of reflective material or reflective accessories, carry a flashlight and perhaps a cell phone, just in case. If you run in darkened areas with no sidewalks, stay off the roads. Always run so you can see oncoming traffic because they will not see you, even if you are on a sidewalk, if possible. Some communities only have sidewalks on one side of the street, so be careful!

Winter training is a great time to build up your mileage base, but there are challenges. Be seen, be safe and dress for running success!