I think I may be one of the minority in saying that I really prefer to run in the cold. I love that I don't come home drenched in sweat, that I can wear long pants that never ride up, that there are fewer people in my way, and that I don't feel like a sauna the entire time. Aside from the freezing snot, it's perfect!
Yesterday I took advantage of the cold, and I bundled up the kiddos in coats and blankets and headed to our local reservoir trails. As I'm next to a ginormous mud puddle, I start getting yelled at by a cyclist to move. I moved as far as I could without getting messy, and then I mumbled as he passed "I'm not getting my kids muddy for YOU." He didn't slow down at the time, but I saw him in the parking lot later circling strangely. He rode off, and I passed him in the car a minute later. Then, two miles away, I saw him by my garage. My freaking garage. The kiddo being the mouth she is screamed out "That's the same guy from the reservoir!", and I replied loudly that I knew. I quickly went to the front of our building and stayed there for a few minutes watching to see if he came back. He never did, and I watched out the window for the next hour.
Now, this is a big complex and he could possibly live here. I never saw him in my mirrors and I don't see how he was able to follow me so far, so I think it was just a coincidence. BUT it was a coincidence that I needed. I needed to be reminded that there are crazies and I need to not be so mouthy. Then it got me thinking about all the worries of winter running. And I really am grateful now that he gave me (probably unknowingly) that warning.
So this is my warning to all of you, hopefully without sounding like a neurotic loon. Always take necessary precautions when running alone. Here's my list of how you can take care:
If it's dark, stay in well-lit, heavily populated areas. And still stay within reasonable business hours. Downtown at 6pm is much safer than dark neighborhoods at 9pm.
If you do go out after dark, wear reflective gear. Most brands make it, and it's generally more advertised during the colder months. Also, you can buy reflective slap bracelets (remember those!?) from Nathan, and you can find head lamps even at Target and LL Bean. The better you can be seen and the more you can see, the safer you are.
Evaluate which trails you should run on. Some of the trails that are crowded in the summer are ghost towns in the colder months. And though it's fun to run with few people around, it's not safe to go completely unseen for long periods of time.
Keep your phone with you, in case of emergency. Put it in your arm strap and don't listen to music so loud. I personally don't listen to music at all anymore--the sounds of your surroundings can be pretty enjoyable if you just open up and soak them in!
If you feel you must go off on a lone trail or in the dark, keep some sort of protection. Pepper spray will hold someone back fast enough for you to get away, and it doesn't take up any extra space.
Be smart. If somewhere looks or even feels not right, don't go there.
Take this into consideration too--These months are an excellent time to shake up your training plans. Do some extra treadmill running--try intervals and do some speed work. Run shorter distances but more often--Runner's World is doing their Holiday Streak right now, and all that's required is one mile/day. You can do that quickly on a treadmill or right by your house! Add in more strength work too, via yoga or weight training. And finally, get your cardio in with classes instead. (Try Turbo Kick or HipHop Hustle--they'll rock your world!) Once the sun and the leaves start coming back, you'll still be in great shape and the mileage will pack back on quickly.
And for goodness sakes, don't mouth off to the passer-bys. They don't tend to like that.
This message was brought to you by your not-so-local neurotic running loon. Stay safe out there!