Running outside during winter


January 27, 2022

Pilot photo

Through writing this story, the author overcame his own hesitation about running on ice and snow. Seen here hitting the winter streets for his first after-work run in two months, a passing vehicle gives Jess Field generous space as he runs past the PVFD firehall this week.

Lower back pain, that's what made Dave Thynes start running one fall, almost a decade ago. He'd grown tired of going to the medicine cabinet for multiple ibuprofen, and occasionally having to resort to pain killers, as a means to cope with "goofed up discs." He chipped away at running and, after a rocky period of his back adjusting, it became his new thing.

"By the wintertime I was feeling really good with my gains, and I had lost a lot of weight," Thynes says. "So, I just went ahead and got some of those stretchy grippers, that you can get at the drug store, and kept at it real lightly."

Fast forward to this winter and Thynes is running outside by utilizing studs made for ATV tires to add traction to his shoes. The idea came from online runner forums and YouTube videos. The studs cost a couple bucks, but allowed Thynes to take off from his house, in town, and run up to the reservoir and back home around the Loop, if he was feeling good.

Thynes says, he likes to rack up four or five runs weekly and he'd run all seven, if it weren't for the ol' j-o-b getting in the way.

"My goal for winter running is to just keep going out there," Thynes says. "I would really encourage anybody thinking about trying it to just try it and take little bites at a time."

He calls himself a "late bloomer" because he was 45 when he started. But he's completed two marathons and has eyes on participating in an ultramarathon in Idaho. Competition isn't what motivates him, though, he loves furthering camaraderie within the running community.

The consistency of Thynes to do what he does year after year is something Jeigh Stanton Gregor admires about the man. Last year Stanton Gregor-an on-again, off-again runner since his youth- decided to try averaging five runs per week. The forgiving winter made it easy to commit, but conditions this winter have been much more challenging, he says.

Thynes gave him a handful of studs to try. Stanton Gregor went online, watched some videos, grabbed a cordless drill and was ready to run five minutes later. Now, studs don't do much for a foot of snow, but on ice, they were an immediate "game-changer."

"I was going up the dump hill, and I saw two cars that had to pull over because it was so icy, and I was able to chew right past them, no worries," he says. "On the way down, I was like, 'Am I going to slide?' Nope, I was able to blast right down it."

Stanton Gregor usually runs after the kids go to school and before he begins his work day. Recently he tried one of his favorite 7.5 mile runs and got his butt kicked by deep snow. But he was out there. And last week, while running on Cabin Creek, he couldn't stop laughing when a gust of wind about brought him to a dead stop. The goal is 1,000 miles per year which works out to a goal of at least 20 miles a week.

"The physical benefits are cool, but I do this for my mental and emotional state," he says. "It feels good to push myself and have a really good sweat."

Plus, running cranks up Stanton Gregor's metabolism, allowing him to eat pretty much anything he wants: sweets, burgers, roasted ham and pickle sandwiches with a bunch of butter, whatever. That's not the case for Marketa Ith. She's trying to only eat good-quality food, full of energy because she's training for the Boston Marathon.

But first she has to prepare for a marathon in California needed in order to qualify.

"I don't know if I'll be able to run Boston, again," she says. "I ran it in 2017, but the times are getting faster and faster, to qualify, so I don't know, to put it straight."

Ith refers to running as her "mental clearance." It helps keep her grounded, recharged and, above all, makes her a better person, she says.

"I want to enjoy running," Ith says. "And I want to enjoy being part of the running community."

Fellow local runners say her natural athletic abilities are obvious. Stanton Gregor, respectfully, describes Ith as "a machine." She started running in her mid-20s. No running watch, she just went out and ran. Later, she began paying attention to pace, mainly because of her running friends, and things progressed from there. In addition to running, she mixes in swimming, yoga or another activity on the side.

For guidance, Ith follows the book Run Less, Run Faster. It talks about doing three quality runs a week: speed work, tempo and longer. Speed work is best on a treadmill and could be a set of 4 x 800m or 10 x 400m. A tempo run can be one mile slow, then five miles fast. A longer run is considered 15 to 20 miles or so.

Ith says longer runs happen Saturday or Sunday typically on the highway, on whichever day is nicer. Shorter take place mid-week after work, therefore in the dark. Both can put her in harm's way as she and people operating vehicles are often dealing with road conditions.

"Some drivers are outstanding, they stop for you, they slow down," she says. "But, also, we have those drivers that don't like people on the roads in the wintertime."

Another bummer can be trying to wear the right gear. Ith knows that a waterproof coat, even the best, only goes so far after two hours of being hit by heavy Southeast rain. And cold, wet hands and feet are no fun. But after a long run outside, one of the best parts of training is Tommy Thompson, a dedicated, longtime running friend of Ith.

"I'm definitely, her absolutely, number one, chief foot-rubber," Thompson says. "That's my most important job, in terms of her training, I'm in charge of foot massages."

Jess Field / Petersburg Pilot

For the determined winter runner, these do-it-yourself running studs can make all the difference during winter months. The shoe upgrade is easy in and easy out, requiring just a few minutes and a few dollars worth of these half-inch sheet metal screws.

Mali Christensen was barely a couple months into the start of her running career and enjoying all the fresh air, beautiful views and benefits of being active outdoors when the bad weather hit Mitkof Island early this winter and things got too sketchy for her to safely continue. She admitted defeat and tried a treadmill at the local gym. She's been there consistently ever since.

"The gym definitely has its pros," she says. "But I had to be forced into the gym to start taking advantage of it."

Christensen finds being surrounded by others focused on living healthier lifestyles to be incredibly motivating. And she quickly discovered the variety of resources available. She'll sauna, swim in the pool, hit the elliptical, and get in a little weight-training, in addition to treadmill time.

Once the weather gets nicer, Christensen, sees herself running outside again. She really misses being on trails, getting overloaded with oxygen. But on summer or fall days when it's crummy, and next winter too, she says she will head inside and utilize the gym.

"If I can do it, anybody can do it," Christensen says.


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