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Running in the snow

My Instagram has been filled with annoyingly pretty winter pictures of snowy forests for months, I’ve been leaving comments everywhere. I want in. I have a forest nearby, but my country hasn’t seen consistent snow in years. Last winter I had to leave the country to see a little bit of snow. This year, that’s not an option, but it happened: winter arrived in the Netherlands! 

For the first time in years we got real snow. Snow that stayed on the ground and didn’t turn into a mushy mess for at least several days. The sidewalks are a combination 30-40 cm deep untouched snow and slightly stamped snow.

I went for a short walk first, to check the weather and snow conditions. Now, I want to run in it. And I’m taking my mini-tripod, because I want those pretty pictures too!

My first snow run

My first real run in the snow was years ago, back when I ran at 5/6 in the morning to get my run in before heading to the office. The weather forecast had predicted snow for a few days already. I woke up and quickly got up to look out the window. Yes, it snowed! It was hours before sunrise, but the street lights combined with the perfectly white snow gave the world a weird brightness. The streets are quiet and all mine. The snow is fresh and still mostly untouched and my footsteps sound crispy. There is something so peaceful about it.

What to wear for a snow run?

Back in the present, my biggest dillema as a beginner snow runner, what should I wear? My weather app tells me it’s -6°C with a windchill of -12°C and opening a window for two seconds tells me the wind is very cold. The lack of winters in the Netherlands mean I don’t have much specific winter running clothes, so I improvise.

I have a long tight that’s a little looser as the others, that’ll be the outer layer. I pick one of the other tights and put that on as an inner layer. On top, a padded bra (yes it helps!), tanktop, long sleeve thermal shirt and a normal longsleeve running shirt. Then, long and thick socks and my running shoes. I’ve been thinking about getting some trail running shoes while running through muddy trails, but I didn’t. So for shoes I’m putting on my regular running shoes and hope for the best. I add a buff to cover my neck and face, a headband that covers my forehead and ears and the warmest gloves I can find. I am ready!

The first snow run

I head out the door and for a minute I ask myself what am I doing? I start my warming up quickly, standing still in this wind is not fun. The sidewalk is okayish to run on, but it’s not very comfortable. Some parts are icy and I keep needing to cross messy roads.

I soon reach the forest and instantly feel at ease, I have enough grip and stability to run here. A lot of people have walked these trails already, so my feet aren’t sinking away in 30 cm fresh snow, but it’s also didn’t turn to ice yet. Perfect. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful and the views are truly amazing. I have to work a little harder to keep my balance as every step I take is on uneven ground, but it’s al going naturally.

I see only walkers during my run, some with a dog, some without. I run up a small, messy hill and I pass a woman. She tells me I’m cool. She’s a runner too, but doesn’t dare to run in the snow. I let her know it’s doable, just very tiring!

I run, I walk, I look around and I take pictures. And then I run a bit more. I have not been able to run much lately, so I also turn around quickly. I return home smiling at 2,5K.

The second snow run

That first snowy run got me excited, so two days later when I suddenly got a little extra room in my work calendar, I decided to go for a little lunch run. Working from home has it’s benefits. 

My weather app tells me it’s less windy today and the windchill is ‘only’ -6°C today. A short look out the window shows me a bright blue sky. I remove the tanktop, swap the longsleeved thermal shirt for a normal shortsleeved shirt and the inner layer long tights are replaced with short tights. Ready, go!

I took a few pictures with my tripod yesterday, but my phone battery died halfway so today I’m making sure it’s charged to at least 50% before I leave. It died again. I’m guessing it doesn’t like the cold. And since I haven’t bothered to put music on my Garmin Fenix 6S Pro yet, the rest of the run is silent. 

The sun makes the run comfortably warm and after a while I can put my buff down. I wanted to run a bit longer today as last time, so I head towards the trails that will lead me deeper into the forest. I know where I am, more or less, but everything looks different now. Do I go left, or right? It feels like I’m getting to know my backyard forest all over again. I haven’t seen anyone in a while now and the snow on the trails is a lot fresher. It’s time to head back though. I ran 4K. 

The last snow run

Alright, the weather forecast is very clear, in a few days it’ll be almost 10°C again. Today is probably my last chance to run in the snow this winter. So, I plan to run the shortest version of my long run which is about 7-8K. Today’s windchill is about -6°C, just like last run, so I make no changes to my running outfit. What I forget is that today’s run will not start in my lovely forest, with lots and lots of trees to shield me from the wind. No, today’s run leads mostly through open fields of prettiness, but nothing to protect me from the wind. I guess I won’t be walking in between today. 


Some of the snow had already started to melt yesterday and during the night it froze up again. That means I’m zigzagging trying to avoid ice patches with some success. I try to run on the snow, but there’s a reason no one walked on it yet, my feet almost disappears in the snow. My feet slip a few times on the ice, but I’m almost at the end of this road. I make it safely there and from here on it’s mostly snowy trails that should be easier to run. I can finally relax and enjoy the rest of my run.

My knees and arms feel cold and I keep moving my fingers to try and keep them warm. I’m cold and very happy the forest is coming up ahead. Finally some shelter from the wind. I head home through the trails and finish my run at 7,5K. 

Summary

I had a lot of fun this week playing with the snow and if I had lost any of my running mojo, it’s defintely back now. There was no pain during or after the runs, so I feel ready to start thinking about what’s next. Make a plan, start training towards something again. Maybe there will be some races going ahead in spring. Maybe not. But spring is surely coming soon.

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