We are in our final days of fall running and another fantastic fall marathon season has come and gone. You might be familiar with fall races in New Hampshire, New York City, and Philadelphia along with the Maine Marathon and Mount Desert Island Marathon here in Maine.
A new season is emerging: winter running and racing in Maine. And on the cusp of the winter running season is the Millinocket Marathon and Half in December. Not to mention a growing number of community road races, trail races, and snowshoe races. Find a winter race in Maine near you.
Whether you are new to running or a seasoned runner, the winter season in Maine brings with it a new set of challenges (and opportunities) to your training.
After getting in a final long run in preparation for the Millinocket Marathon and Half, I thought perhaps I would share tips for winter running and racing in Maine. (see recent post: Get moving and get in the holiday spirit at the Millinocket Marathon and Half)
You might not think about drinking water when the temperatures drop, but it is just as critical in the winter. I rarely leave home without a bottle strapped to my hand. My trick for cold temperatures is to fill my bottle with lukewarm water. It feels nice on my hand and is easier to sip on no matter how cold it is.
Dressing in layers
There is a delicate balance to figuring out what is the right number of layers for you. I tend to look at the temperature (what it feels like), whether or not the sun is out, and how breezy it is. I also know that I tend to get really warm running, I get in a great groove on my run, and then my body temperature plummets. This happens to me in the summer too, but in the winter I need to monitor much more closely.
I have three tips for you. The first, trial and error. Get out there and run while paying attention to how you feel and then make adjustments. Second, you are always going to want a good polypropylene or wool layer next to your skin. No cotton! Third, your outer layer should be adjustable to help monitor body heat. I find either a zip front jacket or vest gives me the option to ventilate and keep core warmth.
I do not do any formal stretching. I do arm rotations, wiggle my body, and maybe lightly jog or hop in place for a minute. The key for me is to get out there and ease into my run to get warmed up and test my footing out on the road. You can see what arm rotations look like and get a few more ideas to try with these six moves from Runner’s World.
Focusing on extremities: head, fingers, and toes
I tend to pay the most attention to my head, fingers, and toes. These are three important areas that can make or break winter running. On my head, I usually wear a thin polypropylene hat. It wicks away the sweat and keeps my outer hat dryer. I tend to wear bright colors too. On my feet, I use a regular road shoe when the temperatures are fair and the roads are clear. For conditions that include snow, ice, and slush I use a waterproof Gore-Tex trail running shoe. The trail shoe keeps my feet warmer and provides a better grip on mixed road conditions. On my fingers, I wear a light pair of breathable running gloves. When it is really cold, I will put a Gore-Tex waterproof mitten over them. The key again for your head and toes are layers. When I am running, I can quickly take off and put on the outer hat or gloves.
Races are measured in miles and minutes for a reason. My big tip is to take it easy on that first mile and get loose, warm up, and test your footing. Then I slip into my pace. Even when racing this winter, I find that getting off to a good start is key and have found that even with a slower first mile I can have a faster race overall.
When it comes to training in inclement weather there are days when you just need to go really slow. On these days I highly recommend not looking at your watch too closely. If I do set goals it is usually around the amount of time I am going to run, rather than miles.
What are your favorite winter running tips?