Winter Running as an Olympic Sport?

10 mins read

By Susan Locke
ST. JOHN’S, NL – As winter runners will know it brings many challenges that a run on a fine summer day does not. The hazards of snow, ice, narrower roads, unplowed side walks, dark evenings and the constant second guessing of how much clothing is enough. Although some I see still wear shorts!

In addition to running we have to add other sporting skill to the point where winter running could be an Olympic pentagon of mixed events.

So, do your warm up and Lets get started!

Equipment Needed:


Light Weight Ice Grips,

Buff (this is important as it has multiple uses such as covering your ears, use as a mask when needed, you can pull it up over your hat to keep it from blowing away on a windy day, great for cleaning your glasses and it keeps your neck warm too).

Dress in layers as the temperature can change 10 degrees during a run.

Smart Wool socks. Your feet will get wet but there is no need for them to be cold.

Thermal Leggings. Not everyone will agree on this one but I personally like to keep my knees and upper legs warm.

Why Run in the Winter?

Well, because I can. I run in the spring (often still considered winter here), the summer and the fall so why give up during the winter? Gyms are expensive and there is COVID to consider. If we only did things here in Newfoundland when the weather was good we wouldn’t do much outdoors.

Winter running is not for the faint of heart in a city perched on the edge of the North Atlantic. There is 60km winds, ice pellets, snow squalls, slush, ice and this is a good day!  For those pedestrians out there you will understand. If your only experience with winter is the trip from your front door to your vehicle then this may be an eye opener for you.

Always Face Traffic

Always run facing traffic. I take this to the extreme and will even try and face traffic when on a sidewalk if possible. I like to see what is coming toward me. This is useful for avoiding the deluge of water and slush from traffic zipping through puddles.

Sporting Events

The Long Jump – This event occurs when crossing the entrance to a parking lot from one sidewalk to the other. There are two components to the event consisting of two long jumps. Both jumps are to avoid the 6” puddle of slush that has build up against the curb of the sidewalk and the pavement. This puddle is not a consistent width, depth, or length. The goal is to size up the approach and length of the jump and hope you can clear at least 4 feet. Note: those ice grips come in handy for traction on the take off. I do believe long jump shoes have cleats!

The High Jump – This is the scary event and only to be used in extreme cases. This is the case where there is no sidewalk and a bank of snow on your left that is waist high. Why did I mention “left side”? Because you ALWAYS run facing traffic. (see note above) Here comes a vehicle, can they see me? Yes, I am making eye contact. Are they going to move over a bit? Nope, still coming. Yes they do see me, getting closer…. Closer…. Holy *#$ I’m gonna be hit. Now it is time to execute the high jump. Bend at the knees and leap as far up the snow bank as you can, hug it if you must and make yourself thin.

Hurdles – Similar to the high jump but executed in less serious circumstances. Sidewalks are awful to run on in the best of times but cover them with slush, ice and clumps of snow pushed there by ploughs, snowblowers, etc. and it has a whole new set of challenges. This is one reason we head out into the road and hop back to the sidewalk when traffic approaches. This is where the hurdles come in. Vehicle approaches time to move to the sidewalk but there is a two foot pile of snow between the curb and the partially cleared sidewalk. Timing and precision is important. There is a vehicle approaching, usually well above the speed limit, and you need to find the perfect spot where the snow is low enough to clear and your landing spot is somewhat clear of danger.

Tire Jump combined with Saturn Ball – You have all seen images of people training by jumping in and out of the centre of a row of tires. The Saturn Ball probably has an official name but it is that balance ball thingy that has a ball (think planet) with a ring around it (think rings of Saturn). The idea is to balance on the rings of Saturn while balancing on the ball. Ok, so combine the two and this is similar to running on a sidewalk in winter. There is no graceful fluid stride that you envision. The reality is an uneven stride as you avoid areas of frozen slush tossed up by the street plough that went by after the sidewalk plough went by. Driveways are cleared but often the snow is dumped on the sidewalk. Every slushy footprint has frozen into uneven clumps of ice. Then there is garbage and recycling days!

The Cat Jump – This one is the extreme event and is used only to get out of dire circumstances. Those cat owners out there all know exactly what I mean. You have seen it, the cat leaps into the air and while in midair realizes their mistake and makes adjustment to land safely. The runners scenario would be during the Long Jump (see above) realizing that your original landing spot is not exactly as you envisioned, maybe it is actually a pothole. You now require an alternate landing spot, however, you are halfway there, what to do? Think cat! If they can do it so can you! It isn’t graceful and there are no marks for artistic impression only the landing counts.

Why? – Because the fresh air is the best in the world. I enjoy running and don’t want to give up. I live in Newfoundland and if I had to depend on the weather or weather clean up conditions to exercise outdoors I wouldn’t get out much. If you are a pedestrian at any speed be safe out there. If you are driver please be kind, sometimes we have to share the same place. This is especially true during COVID times as the sidewalk is not wide enough to allow social distancing, someone must enter the road.


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