Tips for Cold Weather Racing

So the forecast for your race day is cold. That may mean it’ll be harder to get out of bed and enthusiastically fling open your front door, but it doesn’t have to mean that an uncomfortable race day is ahead.

Here are some tips to get you race day ready and set to tackle the miles ahead with a chap-stick covered smile.

Consider your clothing: layer layer layer.

Do your best to cover your entire body to protect from cold air and wind. Synthetic fabrics are great for sweat-wicking, and are best for close-fitting base layers. Outer layers should be lightweight and wind-resistant. Ideally, wear layers of clothes so you can shed them as you go, or adapt (such as rolling up sleeves, tying around waist, unzipping, etc.). While there are often clothing donation collections to pick up discarded items, we suggest you hang on to your layers, if you can, in case you want to put them back on as you cool down later in the race.

Don’t forget your head, hands, and feet.

Most of your body heat is lost through your head, so wear a thin hat to trap in the heat rather than just an ear band. Silly as it may seem, face masks or buffs can be very useful to protect your skin. Extremities are often the first place you’ll feel the cold during a winter run, so don’t forget warm socks and gloves.

Check some warm gear.

Get out of wet clothes immediately after the race. It’s important to change the clothing closest to your body to stay warm and dry. There’s nothing that makes crossing a finish line even better than the promise of a warm hug and warm clothes nearby. If you have spectators attending, get them to bring you a blanket, jacket or something you can wrap up in immediately. Alternatively, pack some warm clothes in your gear check bag to have something warm to put on after the race.

Moisturize.

Chap-stick, anti-chafing creams and moisturizers will protect your skin against dry air and wind burn. Carry some chap-stick on you for mid-race application. Don’t forget the SPF sunscreen – the sun’s rays can penetrate on cloudy days too.

Stay warm before your race.

Be prepared for a lengthy outdoor wait before your race start, as you check gear, stretch and get into corrals. Warm up before you start – do a quick jog, star jumps, or sprints. Wear a ‘throwaway’ item of clothing in the morning while you wait for the start, or even a trash bag with head and arm holes cut out can insulate against the cold.

Hydrate.

Just like any other racing conditions, remembering to hydrate while running in cold weather is important. Drink Gatorade to help replenish the electrolytes lost by sweating under your layers. Be extra-careful at water stations – if it’s frosty out, be mindful of ice on the ground and drink carefully so as not to spill on gloves and clothing.

Watch your step.

Watch out for water and ice underfoot. Shorten your stride, and be aware of your footing to avoid slips and trips. Be especially careful to avoid black ice, as it can be hard to see.

Listen to your body.

If you don’t feel right, stop at a medical station to get checked out or stop any race or city official you see on course who can help you seek assistance.

Manage your expectations.

This may not be the race to run a PR. Slow down according to the conditions and consider switching down distances if you are not feeling prepared.

Keep some money or a credit card with you!

Just in case of emergencies.

Treat yourself post-race.

Keep moving, to prevent muscles from seizing after your run. Find some shelter and make sure you change out of cold or sweaty clothes as soon as possible. Treat yourself to hot drinks and a warm and hearty meal.

Keep these winter running tips in mind and keep listening to your body as you go, and you’ll be all set for a great cold weather race day!