Want to learn to run in the snow? The first word of advice that comes to mind is this: Don’t. Drive down to Black Canyon City (stay the night there if the roads look rough). Have fun exploring the saguaros. It’s warm, geologically interesting and there’s great pizza in town. Simple, easy, fun.
But I’m taking all that back, because the second word of advice I have is this: Do.
Learn to layer up two (or three!) types of pants — insulated tights under rain pants work well for me. Learn what spikes work best when strapped onto your sneakers (Kahtoola is a local brand many swear by).
And learn that you can even drill hex screws from a local hardware store into the bottom of your oldest pair of sneakers.
Winter running is amazing.
It’s not just the heavy tree boughs, nearly bent into the banks. It’s not just the feeling of high-stepping through snow skittered with coyote tracks; not just the way a train horn 3 miles away soars over the next hummock, the only sound out there besides the wet flop-flop-flop of the bandana tied around your neck.
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It’s learning that you can: You can carve through an empty path.
It’s about how when snow falls here, everything changes. The landscape blooms, reforms, like the difference between June and monsoon. You can be part of it.
The other thing about winter running? I can’t tell you how to do it. I can’t tell you what gear will work best for you (though in hail, I’ve found that carpentry safety glasses work well). I can just tell you to keep trying things.
Prioritize your safety. Stay close to your car (or a heated building, or any place where you can get warm quickly) until you figure out things. Run laps back and forth if you have to. Figure out what works and what doesn’t, and build up from there.
I don’t know if it’ll make you a better runner or not — gosh my snow miles are slow, and I’m not an expert, just an enthusiast — but there’s something there for me when I lace up my shoes, hike out from my driveway to the Forest Service road and see what I can run in. And if it doesn’t work out, I go inside, warm up and laugh about the adventure.
Maybe I’ll hit a point where enough is enough, where I’ll want to stop venturing out there, and hop on the ’mill instead. But for now, I’m letting my treadmill stay in the garage.
Selena Langner loves exploring and running long miles through northern Arizona’s national forests.
Send your running news and stories to High Country Running coordinating editor Julie Hammonds (email@example.com).