As runners across the country continue to face the frigid winter temperatures brought to us this year, I thought I’d bounce off of the blog I wrote a couple of weeks ago about running in the extreme cold in Saskatoon. Now that I’m living in Nebraska, I still face some pretty chilly days, but it doesn’t compare to the harsh conditions on the Canadian Prairies, where the winters are far longer, and more intense.

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I reached out to some of my former running mates up there, to get their thoughts on running in some of the coldest temperatures in the country. I asked them some questions, which illicit some fun and helpful answers for all of you. 

Andrea Hill

Tara Campbell: What motivates you to get out and run on a consistent basis in the middle of winter in Saskatchewan?

Andrea Hill: Running with a group makes everything more enjoyable. Meeting at set times means I don’t have to make a decision about whether I’m running in the cold or not — I know people are counting on me to show up and I won’t be suffering alone.

TC: Can you share a particular cold-weather running moment that stands out?

AH: Last winter I had a phenomenal opportunity to be embedded with members of the Canadian Armed Forces as they took part in cold weather survival training in northern Saskatchewan in temperatures that dipped below minus 40C. The experience was amazing, but I ended up with frostbitten toes. I attempted to run a couple days after the adventure — when the temperatures were still formidable — and my feet were numb, swollen and felt like bricks attached to my legs. My Garmin froze after a couple kilometres and I packed it in not long after because I was scared of damaging my feet and not being able to feel it. I took some time off and did some of my winter runs on the treadmill before I went outside in those temperatures again. It was months before my feet felt normal.

TC: What are your tricks for getting through a run on the coldest of days?

AH: I like to get things ready so I can warm up as soon as I get through the door. Bathrobe on the couch, slippers by the door, kettle filled and pancakes, oatmeal or some other food already made and ready to pop in the microwave or toaster.

Tarrant Cross Child

TC: What motivates you to get out and run in the middle of winter?

TCC: I have set some goals and if I wait until it’s warm out, I won’t achieve them. I love Saskatchewan and all its beauty throughout all the seasons. I count it a blessing to be outdoors and see our beautiful city while striving to reach my goals.

TC: Can you share a particular winter moment, or run that stands out?

TCC: I was running along the Meewasin Trail and I didn’t see anyone else. All I could see was the heavy thick steam rising from the river. As I got closer to home, my eyelashes were frozen. I had to keep blinking to break the ice. I didn’t realize it, out it was minus 38 outside. It was a great run!

TC: What are your tricks for getting through a run on the coldest of days

TCC: Have a plan. Don’t just head out the door. Do a brief warm up indoors – run in a spot, march, jumping jacks etc. – to get the blood flowing to your legs.

Jaira Cross Child

TC: What motivates you to get out and run in the middle of winter in Saskatchewan?

JCC: Growing up in Saskatchewan, you definitely learn to embrace every training day, regardless the weather! I have goals for the indoor track and to reach those goals, I need to be motivated to keep running through all kinds of weather. I also couldn’t handle sitting inside all day without throwing a run in to keep my body moving.

TC: Can you share a particular moment, or run that stands out to you as punctuating the extremely cold conditions?

JCC: One time, not too long ago, I was getting dressed to go for a run and of course, I checked the weather before I left to make sure I was dressed properly. I headed out but only to realize I forgot to look at the wind chill. It was so windy and cold, I got near-frost bite on my cheeks and I couldn’t feel my legs for that entire evening!

TC: What are your tricks for getting through a run on the coldest of days?

JCC: Remember your goals. What better reason to run in minus 40 weather than the goals you have set for yourself!

Brian Michasiw

TC: What motivates you to get out and run on a consistent basis in the middle of winter in Saskatchewan?

BM: I love winter running. It’s so quiet and beautiful.

TC: Can you share a particular moment, or run that stands out to you as punctuating the extremely cold conditions?

BM: Many years ago I went for a run on a Friday night at midnight on a cold January night (about minus 40). I was running in our river valley, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Up in the distance I saw a dog. I thought this was strange because there was no one else around. Then as I got closer I saw it was a coyote! The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I was awed by its beauty and also afraid because it’s a wild animal, which I wasn’t expecting to run across in the heart of the city).

TC: What are your tricks for getting through a run on the coldest of days?

BM: The best trick is to make a running date with a friend. 

Don Cochrane

TC: What motivates you to get out and run on a consistent basis in the middle winter in Saskatchewan?

DC: I run with a group and we support one another. They help me get through a run and that generates an obligation on my part to help them. Solidarity!

 

TC: What are your tricks for getting through a run on the coldest of days?

DC: I am perpetually baffled by the seasons, so when I am running at minus 40, I mumble to myself, “In the summer, I run this trail in a singlet and shorts, in a singlet and shorts, in a singlet and shorts, and….” I repeat this mantra over and over and before I know it, I have done my hour. 

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