Gear for running on snow and ice

Had I known two months ago that we would have the snowiest, iciest winter in 50 years, I’m not sure I would have signed up for a spring marathon. But I'm glad I did because the extreme conditions have forced me to push my boundaries out a little farther. Through it all, my running friends and I have learned how to run safely on slick roads and stay warm when getting pelted with sleet (I refuse to run on a dreadmill). Aside from the obvious, e.g., layer up, wear warm gloves, here are a few things we’ve found to be especially helpful...

Today's run after 6 inches of new snowfall last night

Today's run after 6 inches of new snowfall last night

Traction devices are key. Due North Ice Cleats ($24) work really well on ice, packed snow, and plowed roads—that is, most conditions except for deep snow, which I’ve avoided. The design is simple, streamlined, and they are easy to strap onto your shoes unlike other devices that are more bulky or have coils. You can also stash them in a pocket if you only need for parts of your run. My friend Brandi and her ultra-running friends have been using Kahtoola nanospikes, which also get great reviews ($49). 

Short gaiters keep snow and slush out of your shoes. I wear strapless Altra trail gaiters which attach to all Altra trail shoes. You won't even notice you're wearing them. 

Wear warmer tights. I've recently discovered the Patagonia Borderless tights, which are super stretchy, soft against your skin, warm but not too warm, not too tight (you can wear knee-high wool compression socks underneath), fast-drying, and they have no annoying seams or tags (I'm super picky about clothing). They also have side pockets and a zippered back pocket. Stylish, too. I need more than one pair. 

Be flexible with your schedule. While I'm getting my weekly mileage in, the most challenging part is nailing tempo paces on slick surfaces, so I do them when nature cooperates, which sometimes falls on Saturday as planned, but often not. For instance, last Thursday, we hammered out an 11-mile pace run when the pavement was visible for a change--felt like we were flying without clawing the ice.

Also, remember that running in extreme conditions burns a ton of calories. For the past couple of months, I've added several tablespoons a day of vanilla almond butter to my diet. I keep it in the frig and eat it by the spoonful right out of the jar--it's like dessert. 

If you're dealing with a tough winter too, hang in there. It's so hard, but I keep reminding myself that spring is not too far off now and we'll be flying once again in shorts in the sunshine...