Cold weather running; what not to do

Running in the dark and cold months of the year outside can seem daunting.  But, if you take the time to gear up and prepare yourself, winter runs can be some of the most memorable you will have.

Here is my most memorable winter run:

I am a solid back of the pack type of guy so all my runs seem long.  But the most memorable run I have ever had was with a group of friends in the foothills of Northern California.  We were running from the Auburn Dam Overlook to the Cool Fire station (Cool really is the name of a town, and the town is also cool).  It was New Year's day and it was one of those really wet El Nino years so the trails were muddy and the typically, easily navigated streams were now raging torrents up to my waist.  Outside temp was about 28 degrees when we started at the same time a perfectly cold and wet rain began to fall.   

From the Overlook the run goes down hill to the famous "No Hands Bridge" that crosses the American River. From there we headed up the hill towards the town of Cool.  So far so good.  I was wearing tights, a great merino base layer, my awesome wool double layer socks, a half zip and my favorite Mizuno Breath Thermo beanie (if you have not experienced Breath Thermo, I highly recommend that you check it out here at and of course, my trusty Brooks Cascadias.  

As we made our way up the hill from the river, a light snow began to fall.  Ok, still doing fine, I actually prefer the snow over rain in these situations.  Well by the time we made it to the Fire Station, it was really snowing and starting to accumulate on the trail.  The sort of good news is that the Fire Station was our turn around and I had been passing (opposite direction, remember, I am a back of the pack guy) so I knew I was getting close and could start heading back in short order.

An unforeseen issue with being at the back during a snow and rain storm turns out to be that the trail begins to get really muddy and slippery.  So after slipping, falling, sliding, and almost falling but catching myself several times I made it back up to the Overlook.  Oh, I almost forgot, with only one of my beloved Cascadias.  In the last mile, the trail had gotten so chewed up that I actually sank in the mud up past my shin and could not extricate my left shoe from the unrelenting mud!  

As I made my way up to the group I am sure I looked like I had been rolling in the mud for the past two hours because everyone kept asking if I was alright.  I was, and was super thankful that I had thought ahead and had brought some dry and warm clothes for the ride home as I am sure I would have had to endure the 45 minute drive home in the back of the truck if I had not!

My Cold Weather Running Tips

  • Run no matter what the weather, the harder the run the more memorable (this was 13 years ago and my wife and I still laugh about the experience.
  • Always bring a towel, always.
  • Wear really good anti-blister socks.  My Wrightsocks preformed well up until I was only wearing them (could not run back in just one shoe after all), and even then with all of the mud and moisture, I completed the 16 mile run blister free and completely exhausted.
  • Hydrate, especially when it is cold it seems harder to get water in like you should.
  • Oh, and bring some back up shoes in case yours are wet or missing!

Thanks for reading, I hope you got a laugh.-Russ