Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Winter Running

Snow Around The Corner

Published December 3, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Mother nature must have misread the calendar. Here we are in December, and I am still running in T-shirt and shorts - mine this time, not my daughter's. Few joys in life compare to the exhilaration of a fall long run, wind in the face, sweat in the eyes and lactic acid in the legs.

Enjoy December summer while it lasts, for as certain as the taxman, the snowman cometh every year to Upstate New York. Soon, much too soon, nylon shorts will give way to fleece pants, and cotton race T-shirts will hide under hooded sweatshirts. Sun-tanned faces will glow with greasy lotion, and hands will hide in bulky mittens.

Last April, I dutifully folded and packed my winter gear for the summer. I have yet to dig up and try it on. I dread the thought that my pants may have shrunk in storage, and my mittens may have hardened with a thick crust of salt. A couple more weeks of sixty- degree temperatures would suit me well. I do not mind a green Christmas this year to hasten my recovery from summer injury. I could even be convinced to mow the lawn one more time.

Alas, there is no hiding from winter. More than any other season, winter changes our running habits. For a starter, the days grow much shorter. Morning and evening runners alike face the prospects of running in darkness. Light reflective clothes are in order. Potholes and ice patches present a potent threat, as do dogs, deer and drivers.

The cold air does not bother me, except when it moves fast. I dress comfortably in layers, adding one layer for every ten-degree drop on the mercury. I wear shorts and a T-shirt in the fifties, long sleeves and socks over my hands in the forties, pants and sweatshirt in the thirties, an additional wind suit in the twenties, thermal underwear in the teens, and a comfortable couch with remote control in hand below that.

When I was younger, I defied wind chills. I once ran point-to-point in forty below zero wind chill, the wind to my back, a quarter in my pocket, and called home for a ride back. I also suffered the indignity of a frost bite which taught me that fingers were not the only extremities that required protection.

Older and stiffer, it takes me longer to warm up. Gentle stretching made its way into my routine. Walking the first block is now the norm. Starting slow and tapering off has become my motto. Yet, there is no better season than winter to build back the running base lost through summer racing - or injury in my case. The heavy clothing adds strength to the workouts, and the marginal footing adds bounce to our shuffle. So, let it snow, and let the fun begin.

Kamal Jabbour looks forward to running the snowbound trails of Pratt's Falls and Highland Forest.. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at

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