Preparing Mentally to Run Outside When It’s Cold, Wet, and Dark

After an October where I repeatedly checked the weather app, saw a little sun shining down on a flawless 65-degree day, and maniacally donned a pair of shorts to breeze through my morning run, November has hit me like a ton of bricks. For the past two weeks, it’s been nothing but chilly mornings and unexpected drizzles. Last Saturday, the cashier at my grocery store warned me it could snow. I grew up in New England, so you’d think I’d be used to the annual departure from balmy to blizzard — I am not.

This year, however, I am determined to overcome my aversion to the cold and avoid the gym as much as possible. While I’m not planning to start training for Boston until January, I’m already beginning to worry about how a treadmill could affect my stride and shins. To prepare for my personal challenge — complete quality workouts, despite a killer wind chill — I’ve decided I need to invest in some more legitimate running outwear. Here’s what I’ve got on my wishlist:

Jacket that’s not too hot, not too cold


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Doesn’t she look athletic and comfortable? I bet she’s never even seen a treadmill. Image from


Last winter, on really cold weekends, I pulled on my old EMS microfill down jacket to make sure I didn’t get hypothermia. It worked like a charm until I would start to sweat; since the jacket has zero breathability, my sweat would just culminate until I was decently damp. Sorry, terrible image. This Nike jacket is insulated in the front, but the back and side are made to be breathable — so maybe I’d be able to stop for a stretch without my body temperature dropping 10 degrees.

Tights that won’t feel like actual tights


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Yeah same, my abs also look this great. Photo from


Not all running tights are the same — some are toasty warm, while others feel more akin to the ones I wear when I’m trying to make a skirt more appropriate in February. My legs tend to feel much more comfortable in cold weather than my torso, but that doesn’t mean my muscles don’t tighten up when it drops below freezing. I’m really digging these Lululemon tights, even if the reviews aren’t phenomenal (there’s talk of them pilling). As long as the ‘thermal’ part works, I’m down.

Next level crazy traction


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These would make me look/feel so legit. Get at me Outside Mag. Photo from


Last winter, I ran multiple times in the snow. My parents told me I was insane, but that’s kind of the point of all this, so I wasn’t deterred. Running while snow is lightly falling is actually beyond lovely: you don’t get wet like you do with rain, you usually have the road to yourself, and it’s fantastically beautiful. However, the traction is tricky — and by tricky I mean dangerous, and possibly injury-inducing. That’s why I’m looking to invest in a pair of trail runners that are specialized for the snow. My college teammate was from Montana, and she used Icebugs when the roads got rough. They’re more expensive than my usual running shoes, but I think they’d be worth it on snow days.

My hope is that come the hard months of winter, I’ll be ready to run no matter what the weather report says. But, as with this wish list, I know I can’t always get what I want.


Running (while female) at night

Ah, fall — leaves are falling, corporate America is pushing me to buy sweaters and pumpkin flavored beverages, and I’ve already purchased a Christmas present for my parent’s cat. Fall would actually be my favorite season, if not for the inevitable Earth-turning factor. Shorter days means my evening runs are now solidly completed sans sunlight, which, in general, can be kind of a bummer; but for female runners, running in the dark can also be fairly dangerous.


A Telegraph Hill sunset marked the beginning of my 9 miler last night.

Runner’s World did an incredible report last year on the sexual harassment that many women experience while on their runs. I’ve had to deal with my fair share of gross, appraising looks, cat calls, and wolf whistles. On a hot summer run a few years back, a man in a car slowed down and asked me if I’d like some water. I refused, explaining that I was only a mile from my house and would be fine. The man continued to drive his car slowly next to me (I didn’t stop running), insisting that I get into his car with him. Luckily, a car drove up behind him and honked, and he sped off. At the time, I remember thinking that the man was gross and creepy, but I wasn’t worried too much about my safety — I guess I figured nothing bad could happen to me so close to my house. But last summer, a young Massachusetts woman was murdered mid-run. Vanessa Marcotte was home for a weekend from her job in New York, and took a Sunday afternoon jog near her house. Vanessa’s murder really scared me, and since then I’ve tried to take precautions to ensure my safety on a run.

I bought pepper spray from Amazon last year after applying for a license to carry from the state. I’ve also tried to avoid running in alleys and on poorly lit roads at night. Still, every evening I face the same fear: will running the route I want to run — aka an outdoors route — make me unsafe?

Daylight savings is November 5th, which means we’re one week away from a 5:30 pm sunset. I’m continuing to search for ways to stay safe without compromising my love of running outdoors. Finding a good running club is an option, as is finding a route where I know I can be safe.

The hardest part is accepting that I don’t have the same privilege that male runners enjoy. This isn’t to say that men don’t face any danger when they run outside, only that I know the shadow my ponytail casts in the dark makes me more of a target.

Who knows, though — maybe in a few years the world will be a bit safer, and we’ll all be able to run in the pitch dark. But for now, I still grip my pepper spray pretty tightly.