Runners like to get together for pizza. Yes, those are nametags.
Yes, I was the only one in my stinky running clothes.

I know this topic has been covered by pretty much every running blogger and running web site, but it’s my blog and I have at least one suggestion that I haven’t read elsewhere. 

It’s cold. The days are shorter. It’s hard to stay motivated when it comes to running this time of year. How do you deal with it? For me, it comes down to:

1. Wear layers
2. Find a buddy or two or more.

The layers thing is a no-brainer. You can read a ton of other advice out there about staying warm without overheating this time of year. There are even charts and interactive web pages to help you. So I won’t repeat what’s already been said. But it takes some trial and error before you get a feel for how many layers you actually need when you are running. (Note to beginners: It’s less than you think.) The general rule of thumb I’ve followed is dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer (but take wind and lack of sunlight into consideration). Because once you start moving, that’s what it will feel like. But don’t forget to prepare for the to and from – it’s OK to wear sweats over your clothes before and after your race/run.

But the buddy thing. So, it took me awhile, but I eventually started checking out group runs and running clubs, and I’m so glad I did. For one thing, I’m getting faster, and I also have people to do races with (and can stop forcing my husband to join me every time). And I’m meeting new people, which is always fun.

If you have yet to check out a running group (and you want to), DO IT. Don’t worry about being the slowest. Both groups I run with (one is a drop-in group at a local store, the other is a very casual “club”) have runners of all levels. No one cares about your pace, even if you have to run/walk. I promise. Runners love meeting other runners! So check your local running stores to see when they do their group runs, or if they are familiar with any running clubs in the area. 

Anyway, I’ve realized having a group helps a lot with winter running:

It keeps me motivated. Knowing that people are expecting/hoping I show up for a run gives me more motivation to actually do it. It makes it much harder to just make an excuse and skip it.

It keeps me safer. Running alone at night is risky, even with reflective gear and lights. Running with a group is safer – cars are more likely to see a group of runners in reflective gear/lights versus one person. You can tackle certain trails and paths (please use your best judgement), which are usually car-free, if you aren’t alone and you all have lights. Also, if you injure yourself mid-run (it’s dark – more likely to take a bad step and twist your ankle or something), you’ll have someone around to help you out.

It’s just more fun. And you don’t feel as crazy. I think every non-runner (and some wimpier runners – yes, I’m judging) think we’re all crazy (well, crazier) this time of year, running in temps that they don’t even want to walk in for the 30 seconds it takes to get from their front door to their car. It helps to have a few other crazy people in my life to make me feel slightly normal.

Ready for night running
Staying warm + visible.

And now for my public service announcement:
It’s dark. 
MAKE YOURSELF VISIBLE. 

As I was driving to my race on Saturday morning, it was early, overcast and I think the sun was still rising. I passed by two women running on the side of a busy road (with no sidewalks) and they were wearing zero reflective gear or lights. I know you feel like a major dork, but just wear that stuff. Please. If it’s dark, wear it no matter where you run (outdoors … I mean you can wear it on the treadmill if you really want to). If you’re running IN THE STREET, wear it when it’s dark, wear it when it’s overcast – basically whenever the sun isn’t shining.

Don’t forget: Give me $5 and I might just give you a FuelBelt. (Raising money for the American Cancer Society. Raffle info here.)