I Am a Cold Weather Runner

Gen MatchetteIt is a rarity in Central Georgia that the temperatures dip into the single digits, but it can and does happen. The arctic blast that is hammering the rest of the country with frigid cold temperatures has even affected us here. The recorded temperature is currently 11 degrees, but when you factor in the wind chill, it’s -2 degrees. That, my friends, is cold. By Georgia standards, anyway. I just heard from one of my BFFs in Madison, WI that it’s -11 degrees outside, -30 with the wind chill factored in. That would be what we from Wisconsin call really cold.

Needless to say, her kids are home from school today. Mine, although hoping to be, are not. They eagerly awaited a call from the school district office saying that our district, like the surrounding districts, would be closed today. Being a Wisconsin born and raised kind of gal, I laughed at their folly. I wasn’t so horribly mean though; I did drive my Southern-born babies to the bus stop and let them sit in the car while we waited for the bus, them praying that the buses wouldn’t start and school would be cancelled. When the bus arrived on time, the kiddos left the warmth of the car and ran the few steps to the warm and very much running bus, as their lovely, awesome bus driver, Andrea, greeted them with her usual smile and a cute panda hat perched on her head.

After I got the second shift onto the bus (this is what happens when you have older and younger kiddos with different school schedules), I went home, snapped the leash on my sweet and eager pup’s collar and away we went for a lovely five mile run.

“WHAT?!” you’re saying. Yes, we ran five miles in subzero temperatures.

“Why would you do that,” you ask? It was a beautiful, albeit cold, sunny morning and my pup was begging for a run, and because I am a cold weather runner, that’s why.

I grew up in Wisconsin, but did not consider myself a “runner” until I was in my late thirties. I was, however, a very active, athletic child. In the winter, I loved sledding and ice skating and building snow forts when the snow plows would pile all the snow up in the turnaround in front of our house. I was one of those kids that would stay outside playing in the snow until it was dark and my mom would call me in for dinner, my hands and face red with cold, but oh so exhilarated.

As luck would have it, my husband has always been stationed in warm places since we got married. Still, l make it a point of taking my kids to visit family and friends when it’s cold and snowy. I’m slightly nostalgic in that I want my kiddos to have some of the lovely childhood memories that I had and yes, secretly I’m hoping to toughen them up. I am probably one of the few moms in Central Georgia that keeps a stock of boots and snow pants of various sizes and sleds in the attic on the off chance that it might snow. Thankfully, my kids are used to my wackiness and share my love of snow and the joy of playing in it on those rare occasions when we are blessed with even the minutest amount of white fluffy stuff.

When I decided to run my first half-marathon, we had just moved to Georgia. The race was in the middle of January. January is typically good running weather in Central GA – temperatures in the mid-forties. Perfect. The day of race, the temperature was 16 degrees when we started and had warmed up to a whopping 18 degrees when we finished. Even growing up in Wisconsin, I had never “run” in weather that cold, much less voluntarily run for two hours in those temperatures! I loved it! Despite the initial trepidation and shock to the system while waiting for the race to start, I was dripping with sweat at the finish line and jubilant. Two weeks later, I ran my second half marathon in Miami, FL. It was in the seventies, and I discovered that I much preferred to run in the cold than in the heat and humidity any day!

I ran my first full-marathon in 2010 at Disney World. If you don’t know or recall, it snowed during the half-marathon on Saturday and only got up to the high teens the day of the marathon that year. We had to walk through the aid stations because there was glare ice in front of each table from spilled water and Gatorade that had frozen. Again, I loved it!

My best runs have always been when it’s cold or rainy and my worst have always been when it’s hot and humid. I am a cold weather runner. The cold seems to energize me, that or I just run faster to get in a comfy chair in front our fireplace with a cup of cocoa in hand quicker. 😉 The heat and humidity saps me.

When you run in cold weather you can always put on another layer. Not so when running in the heat and humidity. If it’s really, really cold, you can use those nifty hand and foot warmers in your mittens and socks. Trust me. Those suckers are awesome! Playing in your backyard pool in your bikini when it 100 degrees is one thing, but running down the street in one jamming out to your tunes is quite another! And, unless you wear a bikini top with lots of good support (I highly recommend the Athleta ones), the girls take on a life of their own and can scare small children and dogs.

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Thanks to asthma, I have a harder time breathing in either kind of weather, but when it’s cold, I feel like I’m breathing through a slurpie straw vs. a cocktail straw when it’s hot out. Slurpie straw is good; cocktail straw is bad unless there is a fruit garnish close by.

As I was pondering my running preferences (on my run, of course) and how most people would perceive me as needing my head examined, I started thinking about the other Athleta athletes. I was so excited to see the different types of athletes that Athleta sponsored in 2013. While there was quite a variety of sports represented in the 2012 athletes, 2013 had an even bigger variety! Not only was there a huge age range from Tao to Winter, but also a wide variety of sports represented from Elaine’s cold and long-distance swimming to Karen’s SUP in much warmer climes, Liz’s martial arts to Ilona’s climbing and everything in between. I loved reading about all of these wonderful and talented ladies. I doubt any of them ascribed to greatness when they started in their respective sports, but shine they have. Maybe not always with medals and accolades, but perhaps quietly amongst their friends and family – an example of what one can do with a little persistence and gumption. I applaud them all and I send good luck wishes to all the 2014 Athletes!

People often lament to me that they just “can’t run” for one reason or another. I tell them that not everyone is a runner; we each have to find that one sport or activity that we love. When you do, not every day or every workout will be fun, but most of the time you finish with a smile on your face, a lighter heart or with a little more pep in your step. While the race medals and accolades are nice, it’s important to know that it’s the road we take to get there that’s more important and that everyone’s path is different.

As I sit in front of a blazing fire, hot mug of tea (the cocoa is long gone by now) and a fuzzy warm dog and cat curled up nearby I’m listening to the steady drip of all the faucets in the house, hoping that my water pipes will unfreeze before it’s bath time for the kids. I’m thankful for the roof over my head, heat in my home and all the people who have inspired, challenged, and cheered me. And, I’m thankful for growing up where I did because I am a cold weather runner and today, “Baby, it’s COLD outside!”

Shiloh Barkley

January 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I wish I could run in the cold. I can do up to 30 degrees I think…


January 20, 2014 at 8:19 am

Thanks for your post. I’ve been living in the Southwest for the past 6 months and have been missing my early morning, teens to 20’s, in the dark, with occasional snow flurries, runs! There was nothing better than the hot shower and breakfast that followed.


January 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Winter is my absolute favourite time of the year to run – however our winters (Melbourne Australia) are much milder than the more recent winters throughout the US. At 5am in the middle of winter here, the temp is generally around 28 degrees (Fahrenheit) – pretty perfect I think. The last few weeks however have been horrible. Middle of summer here, and the temps have been around 113 to 115 even at 10pm at night. Bring on winter I say!


January 21, 2014 at 5:56 am

I’m right there with you Gen! I love getting out on a cold, crisp day. While others may look at it as a reason to enjoy the cozy indoors, I can’t help but think “I bet it’s not crowded in the park.” Even though I was born & bred in Texas, I’ll take it over heat and humidity any day. Great read!

Meghan L

January 21, 2014 at 10:28 am

I don’t know when exactly you wrote this, but your BFF in Madison, Wisconsin wasn’t whistling Dixie! I live in Madison too & we had record lows during that Arctic vortex, & we got colder than 11 below.

After a short break now we’re getting a second helping, with sub-zero temperatures at least through Thursday. Fortunately there are some indoor facilities nearby. An indoor track is where I’ve been running (Which means I can run barefoot!), & bikram yoga has made for a nice retreat.


January 21, 2014 at 11:16 am

Good for you! The sun is the sun no matter where you are and the body needs a great dose of Vitamin D during the winter! I am an east coast girl living in California and while I am appreciative of the weather we have here, I will never forget my (frozen) roots in the winter.

Thank you for encouraging other women to get outside even if the temps are cold!


January 22, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Hi, Gen!

Thanks for your inspiring post. I was born and raised in North Carolina, but I have lived in in MinneSNOWta since 2004. I myself have just beguna new chapter in my life (at the age of 36) where I am paying more attention to my health, well-being, strength and stamina.

This year, I’ve been itching to walking or running, but the sidewalks are not often shoveled and/or cars driving by splash slushy, dirty, salty muck all over the place which keeps me from walking or running through my neighborhood. My next thought was ‘Hey, I could go for a walk or run through the local park that clears away trails in the winter for walkers, cross country skiers and snow-shoers’ The idea of snow-shoeing for the first time is actually exciting, and I am seriously thinking of purchasing a used pair of snow shoes from a local sports shop that sells used sporting goods.

What do you recommend for attire when going on a long walk or run in sub zero temperatures?

I just purchased the Athleta Windwarrior 2 tights (haven’t tried them on yet) and I have a few articles of Cold Gear from Under Armour, which should work fine. My my main concerns are keeping my face, ears and hands warm… and protecting my eyes with the right eye-wear so they don’t freeze. LoL

Also, I am not so sure about what type of boots or shoes one would wear for walking and/or running in the snow. I know there are special boots for snow shoeing, but if I wanted to just walk or run, what type of footwear should I wear?

Any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks again so much for your post! I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

Christina G.
Woodbury, MN


January 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I’m so glad that there are others like me out there. :0)

@ Christina – BIG difference from NC to be sure! Having not “trained” in the snow, I’m at a loss. My “training” was big old boots, a parka, hat, scarf and mittens. I know that my BFF has some snazzy strap on thingies fro her running shoes. I will say for my cold weather runs here (below twenty degrees), I typically wear fleecy running tights/pants, compression shorts underneath them, a thin base later, one or two fleece running jackets, warm gloves, hat/Balaclava, neck gaiter and sunglasses. I am soaked when I’m done.

If your hands get cold like mine do, mittens might be a better option so that you can ball up your hands. And, I LOVE those hand warmer things you can pick up in the Dollar Spot at Target.

I’ve never had a pair of snow shoes on, but I’m really looking forward to trying those out when we move to CO. The pix in the article is the selfie I took on my sub-zero run. Good luck and enjoy! 🙂

Amanda Reynolds

January 31, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Good for you Jen! I live in Georgia too. I know it is difficult to run when it is cold out, but it was beautiful this morning running in the snow. Especially when you are running over the snow on the snow. There wasn’t that much ice today. Keep up the running. Know that you are not alone. Thanks,

Amanda Reynolds

Lori Holloway

February 06, 2014 at 7:21 pm

I absolutely love cold-weather running! That’s when I run my best.

Guinevere Lorenz

February 15, 2014 at 5:30 pm

I hear you Gen! And all the commentators here too. I think cold weather running still beats the summer heat and humidity, and certainly has made me feel tougher, while everyone else stays indoors. I love the cold, crisp air, and not to mention, feeling the seasons. On Christmas Eve morning I literally had frozen eyelashes, lol, but it was awesome. Certainly beats the treadmill! Thanks for your post.

Lori Holloway

April 05, 2014 at 4:31 pm

I Run so much better in the cold –despite the poor circulation problem I have in my feet and fingers. Getting started is tough, but once I’m started I’m fine.

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