I’m a Wimp in the Cold

syr1 I hate the cold.

Call me a wimp if you will. I sometimes feel like one when I see people running in shorts and t-shirts, perhaps with gloves or a buff around their ears, and I’m covered in layers and still complaining.

My friend says he runs hot, so maybe I run cold. It’s hard to say. I certainly warm up too, after a while. It’s that while, though, when the cold is so difficult to bear.

The experts say to dress for at least 10 degrees warmer than the temperature says when going out for a run. This is fine when you’re two miles in and feeling is finally returning to your fingers and toes. People who dress according to the experts believe it is better to be comfortable when their body warms up for the remaining miles than for those first one or two. I can’t help but disagree.

At the Syracuse half marathon last year, we stood around in the cold and worsening snow, shivering and eying the water-filled roads ahead of us. Muscles got tighter as blood receded to the core. And then we were off for a few miserable miles before the blood warmed up and the muscles loosened.

syr2(Granted, that race never got bearable. It snowed, sleeted, or freezing rained the entire time, and entire blocks were filled with two-inch puddles that were unavoidable. Feet were never dry, and icicles hung from exposed skin. My sister points out the one picture of me in which I was smiling. That’s because the poor cameraman sat for hours, taking shot after shot of crazy runners, while at least six inches of snow and slush accumulated on his head. It was amusing and ludicrous. The indoors area after the race looked like a war zone filled with shell-shocked survivors. Even the cool tech shirt was not worth it.)

Most runners I know hate being overly warm. Some refused to run in July and August at all due to the heat. I sweat too, and wet hair under a cap and wet hands in gloves are not particularly comfortable. But they are much more bearable to me than discomfort of the cold and wind buffeting exposed or improperly covered skin.

Besides, I learned the hard way that if you remove the cap or gloves when your head and hands warm up, it’s nearly impossible to put the sodden items back on. I did try to put gloves on again in one long training run last year, and my hands felt far colder than before. Now I leave the gloves on. Let my hands be warm and damp; that’s more comfortable than frozen.

After running in cold weather, I want nothing more than to get the damp clothes off and take a hot shower. After, my fingertips get numb. This is apparently common, although it worried me the first few times. Again, the more heat I preserve while outside in New York winters, the more confident I can be that I will recover when my core temperature rises again.

So you run hot and deal with the wind and cold and ice sticking to exposed skin. It’s hard enough to get me outside when the temperature dips to 20 or below as it is. I’d rather be comfortable as possible those first two miles and warm for the rest of it. The warmth won’t hurt me, but the cold sure does.

Then again, one of my resolutions is not to complain about the cold or other conditions when I run. So maybe I’m just trying to get it out of my system in advance. I’m pretty sure complaining keeps you warm. And there’s only three or four more months of upstate New York winters…

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