This article on indoor winter running options was written for MDRA by George Fulp.
It is a good overview on how you can stay in shape and even get faster over the winter months.
Let’s face it. Running and racing outdoors in the Minnesota Winter is tough. Putting on two layers of pants and three layers on the upper body, plus two pair of socks, hat, gloves, face mask etc. just to run outside is never fun. For the first five minutes you are cold, and after that overheating. Racing? Five pounds of snow and ice stuck to your shoes, it feels like your running in molasses. What’s a poor runner to do?
There are some options.
Indoors. I’m not talking treadmill (or dreadmill, as some refer to it). I’m talking running in shorts, singlet and racing flats. You’re running all out, nothing but your own training and limitations.
When I show up at the first big race of the season in March…The Human Race 8k…the first comment I usually hear is “I haven’t raced since October”. Why?
There are places to run where you can get in a quality race or workout.
(PLEASE NOTE – THE DOME IS UNAVAILABLE FOR RUNNING AT THE TIME THIS STORY
WAS PUBLISHED, STAY TUNED FOR FURTHER UPDATES!)
1. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. 600 Meter to a lap upper concourse. Show up and pay your $1.00. Okay, it is concrete, it can be hard on the legs. The price is right. Lots of familiar faces. Best of all you can run your slow laps on the outside lane, then jump to the inside lane to run your pickups. My favorite: 2 laps hard on the inside (where very few run), then do my recovery lap on the outside. Bring water (it’s dry and warm in there) and a towel to wipe the perspiration. Every Tuesday and Thursday during the Winter.
2. The Meet of the Miles, January 10, 2011. University of Minnesota Fieldhouse. Okay, it’s only one mile. Few are in shape to run a hard mile in January. In 2010, 109 men and 28 women toed the line. Fears? What if I finish last? What if I get lapped?
Number One. It’s run in heats. If you feel you are in shape to run a 6:00 minute mile, you can run in a heat with others of the same ability. I remember distinctly in past years jumping into the 6 minute heat. For the first two laps, I was dead last. I’m a slow starter, by lap 3 I caught a few runners, and I actually finished 2nd or 3rd in my heat. Nobody expects you run fast in January, so there is no pressure.
A good suggestion. Use your Meet of the Miles as a base time. See how much you can improve between your January indoor mile and your “Twin Cites One Mile” outdoors in early May.
3. Challenge Races at Bethel College. Not just one race, not just one day, but a series of 5 races. It’s the closest thing we have to a indoor racing season. Starting on Dec. 5 and ending in February, you can race every other weekend for 5 solid weeks. 1500 Meters, 1 Mile, 5k, 3000 meters, 5k. Best of all, the track at Bethel College is awesome!!! They also have 200, 400 and 800 events if you really want to work on your turnover.
The field house on the Bethel Campus where these events are run is opened for an hour before the first event. You can get there early, run some nice warm-up miles, run your event, and do a leisurely cool-down, all while dressed in singlet and shorts.
Competition? Plenty of it. Watching 70 year old Rick Kleyman dueling with 72 year old Thom Weddle on the back-stretch of lap 5 proves that the competitive spirit never dies, no matter what the age.
Two years ago, I ran one of these events, and 8 year old Benjamin Olson was in front of me for 6 of the 8 laps in the one mile. This year, he show up and ran a 5:07 1500 meters. “I’m glad I didn’t run in his heat”, I thought to myself, as I watched him speed around the track. The little prodigy finished 5th in the heat of 12 runners.
Then the second heat lined up, and his younger sister, 9 year old Sarah, took off as soon as the gun sounded. She was in front of me for the first few laps. Remember these two names, if they keep improving the way they are, they will be forces to reckon with as soon as they hit their teen years.
The link to find these races: http://www.charitieschallenge.org
Okay, you’re probably saying to yourself “1500 meters…one mile…5k indoors? It takes me 7-8 miles to warm up, my race would be over before I got going”
Welcome to option 4: Indoor marathons, the latest craze to hit the Midwest. On Jan. 9, there is the Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor marathon in Northfield, Minnesota. This is run on 282 meter second level jogging track in the field house at St. Olaf College. If you were hoping to run it this year, you are out of luck. It’s a lottery now to enter, it has gotten so popular Put it on your schedule for next year and make the attempt.
If you don’t mind traveling a bit, the 443 meter Pettit National Ice Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has a whole series of races in late January, 2010. Jan. 21 (Friday) there is a 5k (11 laps), a half-marathon on Saturday (48 laps) and a full marathon on Sunday (96) laps. Again, due to popularity, this race is sold out, so put it on your MDRA race calendar for next year, and sign up early.
I ran the half-marathon/marathon last year. You receive one finishing medal for completing the half-marathon, another medal for finishing the full marathon, and a 3rd medal for doing both. The best part is, you don’t have to count your laps; every time you cross the time mat, a chip around your ankle records your current lap and cumulative time and are projected onto a screen. All you have to do is run. With a water stop available on every lap, comfortable air temp (about 50 degrees), you never have to worry about getting too hot or too cold.
Finally, a new contender is entering the fray in February of 2011. The Sandbox Indoor Marathon, taking place in New Richmond, WI Feb. 11-13. According the race website “We have designed a 1/4 mile running surface in the arena which will require marathon participants to run about 110 laps, half-marathon 55 laps, etc.” It will be a chip timed race, run on a facility that is normally used for motorcross.
When the Twin Cities marathon or 10 mile is finish in early October, it doesn’t mean my desire to compete is finished. My dream is for some day there is a true indoor racing season in the Twin Cities: two races in November, two in December, two and January and two in February. That would transition nicely from the Twin Cities marathon week in October to the Human Race 5k/8k in March. Until that comes to pass, I guess we can only dream.