Out of the Dark

My running has been going very well recently. I’ve been varying the distance, intensity, and routes, and I’ve mixed in plenty of hills. Also, I sucked it up and tried to make it through a few miles on the treadmill last week on a day when I didn’t make it outside to run, but it was awful and I just don’t like running on those things. I somehow managed to make it through four miles, which is probably a distance record for me on a treadmill (though I’m not completely sure because I tend to repress memories of treadmill runs). I’d rather run 10-12 miles outside than a couple miles on a treadmill. Seriously. No offense intended to treadmills though, because they serve a purpose and can come in handy – a treadmill run is definitely better than no run, especially during a training segment.

Speaking of training segments, I’m not really training for anything specific right now, so I’ve been varying my runs according to what sounds good and what I feel up to running on a given day. I’ve been running outside since my treadmill debacle run last week, at distances ranging from 4.1 miles to 12.5 miles. I’ve also done some speed work (8 x 800m with 200m recovery jog between each repeat) and a tempo run. I wore my Brooks PureFlow on a 12.5-mile run last weekend – the longest distance for which I’ve run in those shoes so far – and they were great. They felt fine and were very comfortable throughout the run, handling pavement, sidewalks, dirt roads, and trails with ease. They’ve been very versatile shoes for me so far, and I have been pleased with their fit and feel through everything from speed work to tempo runs to long runs. I haven’t really noticed the PureProject Toe Flex feature that allows the big toe to flex separately from the other toes, but I’m also not sure exactly what that feature should feel like. There’s an excellent and thorough summary of the PureProject features at The Middle Miles – I highly recommend reading it if you’re interested in learning more about the Brooks PureProject collection.

The days are getting shorter now, and it can get very difficult to get quality runs in during daylight hours. Over the past couple of years, I would run on an indoor track when it was dark or the weather was bad, but I stopped using the indoor track after getting a lot of toe pain earlier this year. Because of my hate/hate relationship with treadmills, I try to use them only as a last resort…but maybe I’ll try to get used to them a little more this winter. My preference now is definitely to run outside whenever possible, even if it’s cold and/or getting dark. Safety and visibility are very important issues though, so my wife and I recently began looking into headlamps that we can wear while running. Because we both used to run indoors regularly during the winter, we didn’t have a need for running with headlamps and had never researched them. We don’t need anything fancy – just something that is comfortable; provides enough visibility to run on trails or sidewalks shortly before sunrise, at dusk, and shortly after sunset; and can serve as a warning to motorists, cyclists, and other runners. We did a little bit of research, and we both decided on the Petzl Tikka Plus®2 (in the Mystic Gray color). It’s available from a variety of retailers including Amazon, REI, and Moosejaw, among others. We haven’t tried it on any training runs yet, but we did try it on a short jog in the dark after we finished our speed workout last night and it seemed to work well. We both thought it felt comfortable based on our limited use, and my wife was even able to wear it around her waist. I didn’t try that, so I’m not sure if it would even fit around my waist or how that would affect the lighting for me, but I thought it felt fine around my head. I’ll post more about the headlamp after I’ve had a few chances to wear it on a few runs in a variety of lighting conditions and on different surfaces. I hope these headlamps will work well for us and help make it easier for us to run outside much more this winter than we have in the past!

Do you run outside in the winter, or do you use treadmills or indoor tracks whenever possible during cold weather?

Have you ever used a headlamp for running? If so, what brand and model do (did) you use and how do (did) you like it? What limitations, if any, do you place on your running when using a headlamp?

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6 Responses to Out of the Dark

  1. glad running has been going well for you! I had to use a headlight during hood to coast. It wasn’t too bad, though I didn’t love it. I don’t remember the brand, but it was pretty lightweight, which I liked a lot. It’s definitely beneficial. Hopefully you and Janet like yours! :)

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks! Shoot – I forgot to ask you about headlamps based on your Hood to Coast experience! I’m curious to see how it’ll feel after running with it for more than a few minutes. It seems lightweight so far, but we’ll see if it still feels that way after several miles. I hope we’ll only need it for short periods of time, like for the last few miles of a weeknight run or the first few miles of an early weekend run. I’m willing to try just about anything that’ll help us log more miles outside this winter. :)

  3. jsadora says:

    Wait… You hate treadmills? Just kidding. Not that I prefer treadmills, but I never became accustomed to running in the cold. This winter I will really be forcing myself to run outdoors, although I’m not looking forward to it. You may think I’m crazy, but I’ve actually done an 11 miler on a treadmill (I had a movie playing in the background). I’ve never used a headlamp, so I’m curious to hear about your experiences. Report back soon!

    • Matt says:

      Wow – it would take me a week’s worth of treadmill runs to total 11 miles, haha! I’ll keep the movie idea in mind next time I try a longer treadmill run. I’ve tried running on the treadmill for the duration of an entire album on my MP3 player, but I just got bored and stopped after a little while. I think it can be tough to get accustomed to running in the cold (if one can even truly get accustomed to it), but it has gotten easier/more tolerable for me the more I’ve done it. It can also be a little tricky deciding how to layer clothes for cold-weather runs, and proper layering has made a big difference for me. I’ll definitely report back on the headlamp – I hope it’ll help me get in a lot more mileage outside this winter!

  4. Ali Mc says:

    I won’t be much help in the headlight category…whenever I read your posts I always feel like “man this is EXACTLY what I’m going through” – I hate the treadmill and have also never run during the winter. I am hoping to buy running tights and look into headlight gear :) I’ll be interested to see what you go for!

    • Matt says:

      I’m glad you can relate, Ali! I got the Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp, but haven’t tried it on a real run yet (just on a very short test run the night I got it). I hope it’ll help me be able to run outside more this winter because I seem to have the worst mental block running on treadmills and I quit running on the indoor track after I hurt my toe. I’ll definitely post more about the headlamp after I’ve had a chance to use it on some real runs…probably within the next week or two due to the upcoming time change.

      It can be tricky deciding what kind of cold weather gear to get and how to layer everything. It’s tempting to layer a lot when it’s cold, but then runners warm up after the first 5 or 10 minutes and the extra layers become cumbersome. On the other hand, not layering enough can make for a miserable run if one doesn’t warm up enough during the run. But with a little practice (and maybe some help from one of the online guides for layering running clothes), each runner can usually figure out the best layering plan for himself/herself in various winter weather conditions. Good luck – I hope you find some good cold weather running gear!

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