Cold, cold, cold. It’s all about the cold right now. My social media feeds are being flooded by runners posting photos and comments about the “deep-freeze” type temperatures hitting a large part of the country.

As a prairie girl (not by birth, but by choice in my teen and adult years) I have a much different relationship with winter running than I realize the majority of the country does. First off, – 10 and – 20 does not feel like extreme cold to me, so it’s a tad humourous to see posts about people “toughing out a five-mile run in – 14.” In fact, for January, I can confidently say such temperatures would feel downright warm compared to what I’m used to.

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Having lived the majority of my life in Saskatchewan, I don’t consider it to be extremely cold until it starts to reach the – 30 to – 50 range. However, I do understand that this all relative. For all of you out there running in – 15 and – 20 for the first time, or enduring these colder temperatures for a longer period, it will feel all too cold. The good news is if it sticks around, you’re going to start to get used to it – one frozen eyelash at a time.

When I was living in Saskatoon, running in temperatures as low as – 50 were a reality – it was a cold reality, but it was a reality nonetheless. Sure, there were moments I cursed the frigid walls of wind cutting through my balaclava but those moments were few and far between as I came to love running in the almost otherworldly temperatures of the Canadian prairies.

Now living in Omaha, Nebraska I’m still on the prairies, but it’s a much more mild climate. The winters are far shorter and the deep freezes aren’t as dominant. In many ways, it’s ideal to be able to run on dry ground through December but I do find myself longing for the snow at times.

Over the holidays while spending time in Fort Langley, I was overwhelmed with joy when the skies opened up and blanketed the trails with a stunning coat of white. According to my cold-o-metre it’s not cold here in Fort Langley, but the snow provides that comforting prairie feeling I know so well. I’m also pleased to know that back down in Omaha the snow has begun to fall. You can be sure I’ll be layering up to run when I get back.

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Sure, this may all sound a bit crazy, but bare with me: there are are some notable benefits to running in this weather. Of course, it’s invigorating, it makes you tough, it builds character. But beyond these truths is something even deeper. Something I captured a couple of years back in one of my pieces, which to this day is the best articulation I have of my love of running the prairie winters is this:

” . . . it goes beyond a sense of accomplishment or an adrenaline rush. When I run in these conditions, I experience a deep connection with nature. Similar to a surfer picking up a big wave. It’s uncomfortable yet calming, exhilarating yet humbling and forceful yet gentle. It’s nature in its most powerful moments — and it is a pure joy and privilege to be a part of it.”

I recognize it can be unpleasant and it messes up your pacing, but try to be in the moment the next time you’re out there in the uncomfortably cold weather. Because you may just find there’s a small part of you that misses it when it’s gone.


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3 Comments

  • Kyle Kelly says:

    Temperatures as low as -50. Really? Do you have dates that can confirm this? Keeping in mind you stated temperatures-different than wind chill. Call me sceptical! Im a runner, born and raised in Saskatchewan, live in the subarctic and have never seen temperatures of -50 C. I’ve experienced lots of -45-49 C and can’t imagine anyone running in those temps.

    • Ian Hunter says:

      I presume the author is talking about the wind chill (“feels like”) temperature, which is expressed like this (-50) and not like this (-50°C). I agree, -50 wind chill is very cold for running.

  • David saskatoon says:

    -50 windchill in Saskatoon happens a couple days a year in the winter. No question. It is possible to run in that temperature, there are all kinds of layers that will equip you to handle that.

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