by Kristen Weigand
IT’S DECEMBER. IF YOU’RE A RUNNER, THIS MEANS MAKING PEACE WITH THE DARKNESS. You could always go inside and hit the treadmill. Resist the urge. There will be plenty of time for treadmill running next month when the farm country winter really digs its teeth in. December temperatures in Kansas City usually top out around 45. That’s still running shorts weather! Add a stocking cap and gloves, and the cool, crisp winter air will leave you refreshed and ready to hit it hard a half mile into your run once you’re warm and toasty.
But what about the darkness? With fewer daylight hours, you might need to mix up your warm season routine. If running alone in the dark feels feel eerie, you can always buddy up or join a group run. Check the IndieFit Daily Fix section to find local runs that span the dark months.
But the holiday season offers opportunities that aren’t usually mentioned in running magazines. For example, Christmas lights courses. Find a neighborhood that goes all out with the Christmas lights and design a course. You’ll be feeling sorry for the people packed in their cars who don’t get to soak up all the Christmas cheer that is better felt on foot. I like to run my Christmas lights course with my family. My daughter is much more into short sprints than continuous running, so sprinting from lit up house to lit up house makes for a fun game. Short walking rests allow her (and me) to rest and get a better look at the lights. Just make sure you are lit up as well (and I’m not necessarily talking egg nog!). Reflective clothing and a light will keep you safer on the streets.
If trail running is your thing, a good headlamp will help you see the trail in the dark. I’m still in search of the perfect headlamp. I’ve tried several of the less expensive $15 -20 lights, which work fine for me (although I’m prone to lumens-envy – everybody’s light seems a little bit brighter than mine, but I think it has more to do with forgetting to regularly replace the batteries). Kansas City has some fantastic trails and there are weekly group runs at several of them. Running down a wooded trail in the frosty winter air on a clear night with only light from your headlamp and the stars is great, and hitting the trails right after the first snowfall of the season — or during the snow itself — is one of those favorite winter experiences you can’t get on a treadmill.
Last year I went for a group run on the trails at Wyandotte County Park. I like to run with the men, so that night I was booking along through the woods on a leaf and snow covered trail faster than I’m normally comfortable with. About halfway into the run, I heard some of the guys ahead of us start cussing as they disappeared down a steep hill. Once I made it to the top of the rise and started down the other side, I found out what all the commotion was about. I fell on my butt and slid down the snow-covered hill determined not to get left in the lurch! At the bottom I got back on my feet and started back in. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Running fast and free at night with a group that’s faster than you can take you out of the day-to-day, and the added mindfulness necessary to prevent falling on your face can help you feel more connected with nature. Plus, you can feel good that you’re a badass who runs through the dark woods as temperatures dive below freezing.
December also has two really cool races at Wyandotte County Park, one on the roads, one on the trails. The Mid America Running Association puts on the Chili run on December 12th, 6.5 miles on a paved road that winds through the park. The Trail Nerds host the Alternate Chili Trail Run on December 5th, a 10 mile course on the park’s trail system. Both involve eating a warm bowl of chili afterwards.
The shorter December days make it even more important to get outside and soak up the fresh air of winter. It saps the cold and gloom of the season, and your hot shower and dry clothes will feel all that much cozier for the effort