Today London got what seems like its annual dump of snow. Quite a large amount of snow and certainly more than in previous years from what I can remember. And this year, in deference to all the rat-racers and school children, the snow had the good grace to come at the weekend. But for us marathoners, with 10 weeks until the London marathon or less for Brighton, every Sunday counts. So what should you do when you wake up to thick snow?
Well rolling over and going back to sleep isn’t really an option I’m afraid. I am haunted by a passage in Charlie Spedding’s brilliant book From Last to First when he describes how he went to a multi-storey carpark to smash out his speed session because of thick snow everywhere else. That, for me, is the essence of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. And I believe we should all be inspired by that level of dedication. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Spedding was different to most people in his relentless pursuit of excellence, but we can all learn from his example.
So what to do when the snow comes?
There is always the option of the dreadmill. I am not a fan of pounding away on a moving walkway in a sweat-smelling gym, but if you must, it is better than nothing. But ideally you should get out.
Running on snow and ice.
As with so much of running, there is a calculation to be made here. Going for a run is good. Going for a run, slipping over and bruising your coccyx or twisting your ankle and missing weeks of training is not good. This morning I went for a run on virgin snow which was loose and therefore tough to run on, but not icy or slippery. So do the calculation: check the conditions underfoot and adjust your plans. For this reason it is really worth thinking about footwear. Normal trainers can be OK although you’re likely to get wet feet, but again, check the conditions underfoot. I dug out my trail shoes – the excellent Brooks Trailblade – and they were ideal. Sure my feet still got soaked, but the Trailblades gave me the extra grip that I needed. I have also read about ‘ice grips’ which are worn over your running shoes and act like snow-chains for the feet. I’ve never tried them though so I can’t comment (if you have please leave a comment below!)
Clothing is less of a safety issue than footwear, but worth thinking about, especially if you are going long. The trick here, as with all cold-weather training, is to layer in a way that allows you to remove layers as you get hot or add layers if you get cold. Arm-warmers are a brilliant idea – I have two pairs: a thicker pair for really cold conditions and a thinner pair for the rest of the time. I wrote about the benefits of arm-warmers here. I also love my Innov8 Debrisock which, whilst not waterproof, will help keep snow from getting in the top of the shoe. There are other small waterproof or Goretex gaiters that you could consider. I consider a hat that wicks sweat and a pair of good running gloves essential.
I think that the things to remember when running on ice or snow are mainly common sense. It is more difficult to see undulations and obstacles when everything is white. Snow, especially as it starts to get trampled, becomes very uneven. Loose snow is much, much harder to run on than pavement or tarmac or even woodland trails. Packed snow is slippery. All of these factors lead me to the same bit of advice: take it easy and adapt a little. You will highly likely run a little slower on snow and ice than you would in normal conditions. That is OK, the effort levels are higher so you will still get a great training benefit. And you should also look around, enjoy the scenes. It isn’t often we get snow in London, so if you live in the capital, get away from all the black slush and head for the parks and open spaces and just enjoy it.
So there we go. By the time I have posted this the snow in London will be looking decidedly uninspiring. But this morning at 7am it was beautiful and I can tell you that my legs feel every one of the miles that I did today. So be sure to layer up, reach for your trail shoes and go out and enjoy yourself. It won’t be here for long!