It’s no surprise that winter comes with challenges for avid runners in Concord and around the state of New Hampshire. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s slippery and there’s no shoulder. With all of these obstacles, it’s no surprise that so many of us congregate in loud, sweaty, crowded gyms, after we battle for a parking spot in a snowy, crowded lot or side street. Others of us dust off the treadmill and “netflix and sweat” (you heard it here first), while others throw in the towel entirely and wait for the fair weather to return.
Then there is another group of Granite Staters, who view the cold, darkness, slickness and narrow roads not as obstacles, but challenges to overcome. If you’re part of this group, kudos to you. If you’re not part of this group, you can be. Consider what follows as instructions for safely running the streets of Concord in New Hampshire’s harsh and often unpredictable winter.
The cold can be brutal, but it’s not always as bad once you get moving. It’s a good idea to always dress for 10˚F warmer than it actually is. You warm up quick when you run, but remember, you lose that heat fast when you stop moving. Dress in layers, keep your fingers and toes warm, and if it’s really cold and windy (looking at you Clinton Street), cover exposed skin.
Narrow, slippery roads!
This is not the time of year to try to become King or Queen of the mountain. Roads are narrowed by snow and slick with ice and sidewalks are often no better. This is the time of the year for base miles and defensive running. Sharing the road with cars in the winter is no joke. Remember, no Strava segment is worth your life.
Speaking of defensive running, don’t forget your lights! I can’t even tell you the number of times I have gone out around 4:30 in the afternoon and seen fellow runners without lights or reflective gear. Remember, it gets dark early this time of year, and that darkness coincides with the rush hour. Just because you can see cars, doesn’t mean they can see you. Get the most obnoxious lights you can, and if you’re nervous, avoid high traffic areas (downtown, South Street, Clinton Street, Loudon Road and Manchester Street can be particularly dicey in dim light).
Safety (and fun) in numbers!
Some people can’t stand group running, but I love it. There are lots of groups in Concord (road and trail) and all the groups I know of, welcome runners of all experience levels. I love it because it brings a sense of comradery to the cold and the dark. You get to learn about other runners in town, which is always awesome, and you develop a bond with those people. Also, it’s always safer to run in numbers. Plus, if you’re going to freeze your buns off, you might do it with other crazy people.
Tell a friend where you’re going!
This one isn’t necessarily winter specific, but it’s especially important when it’s cold and dark. Get in the habit of telling your family or friends where you’re headed and approximately how long you will be gone. This will help them know where to look if you aren’t back when you said you would be. Be honest with your time too. Running your normal route could take 5-10 minutes longer than it does in July. Also, carry some identification.
Winter running can be uncomfortable, but it’s my hope that the tips above make it less so. The list is by no means exhaustive, but if you’re new to the scene, it’s great place to start. Ultimately, winter running in Concord, and the rest of New Hampshire, is all about having fun. So plan your route, layer up, strap on your sneaks, turn on your blinkies, grab a crazy friend and hit the road.