Last year I became a mountain runner.
I’ve run on and off since my teens, with a spell of taking it a little bit more seriously in the late 1990s – by which I mean I probably went out once or twice a week without tracking the distance I’d run – I just ran!
Long story short, I joined a running group in Bristol, UK, in about 2014 and started to go once a week with them, then soon joined in the weekly intervals session, and would do my own longer run at the weekend. Sometimes I even got up to do the kilometre efforts on a Saturday morning! They persuaded me to do a 10km race, and I swore this was my perfect distance and I never wanted to do more. So I did a few more 10kms trying for a new PB each time, and couple of half marathons. Obviously.
March 2017 we found ourselves living in the French Alps. How did that happen? Weird! So I thought ‘Well, if life brings you mountains, become a mountain runner!’
Anyway, the point of this post is about wearing running gloves. When you run in the mountains it’s often pretty chilly and even on days that look warm you find you need to at least start out with gloves on.
I have two pairs of running gloves at the moment – a thinner pair or fluro yellow ones and a thicker pair or boring black (but with a bit of pink and touchscreen fingers). I recommend having more than one weight of running glove. It’s late March now and I’m still mostly wearing my thicker ones. The touchscreen fingers are brilliant as you really don’t want to have to take them off if you need or want to use your phone/camera/gps etc – or miss out on a photo opp (cos without a photo you weren’t there, right!?)
Clearly for winter running you need even-thicker-than-that gloves, and I like to layer my warmer running gloves with a pair of fleecy or windproof o gloves over the top.
A ‘gloves on’ morning
At the end of last running season I was really fired up to race. I’d got the bug. I’ve never had the bug for anything sporty in that way before and I was loving the feeling. Having completed the Eco Trail du Massif des Brasses (35km/1912mD+) on 14th October and coming 4th female in my category, I wanted just one more race.
I found the ‘Cross de la Semine’ not too far from home, which had a new 19.6km (why not do a wee loop somewhere and make it 20??) trail option with just under 500m D+. It was on the last Sunday of October and I thought – why not?
That morning it was snowing. I set out to drive to Saint-Germain-sur-Rhône, where I’d never been before. With hindsight I’m pretty sure I took a wrong turn early on and didn’t notice that Google maps had re-routed me a stupid long way round. It wasn’t the day for a long detour. When the motorway was covered in snow and I was driving very slowly indeed, heart-a-beating, I called The Husb and asked his opinion – should I give up and come home? I didn’t want to get stuck somewhere. Perhaps it was the devil on my shoulder reacting to the thought of running in this awful weather…
As if by magic at that very moment I went through a tunnel and emerged the other side into pouring rain and a gale. No more snow. Much better! I ploughed on.
It turned out that Saint-Germain-sur-Rhône is quite a wee place and it was hard to find the race start point (note to self- always check the co-ordinates of the race start point before The Day). I got pretty stressed out driving around the right-ish-but-not-right bit of countryside as the gun time approached.
I finally found it, managed to park and dashed in to grab my dossard (race vest) and timing chip. It was COLD but the snow had stopped and it was only raining a bit. After the silly drive and the weather I was damn well going to run this thing.
It was very much a running Gloves On morning.
It took a while for my body to warm up, but eventually my hands were hot and I paused long enough for a quick change, pulling off my gloves and stuffing them in a mesh pocket in the side of my running backpack.
Aside: When I’d looked for a running pack – nothing too expensive as I wasn’t earning heaps, nor was I sure how much I would use it – I vied away from the vest-style ones with strap pockets on the front. They just looked like overkill. I was wrong – you really want those easy-access pockets. Even if your water is in a bladder on your back with a tube over your shoulder, being able to access things like your phone for a quick trail photo, or stuff your gloves into an easy pocket on the move, is invaluable. I’m currently looking at trail running vests for this season!
I ran and ran, mostly on my own. I had no idea where I was compared to everyone else, or geographically to be honest. But it was a really well-marked trail and whenever there was a tricky turn a smiling human was there to make sure you went the right way with words of positivity and encouragement. We were in the woods and out of them, a bit uphill and down – it was lovely.
Then the sun came out. Hooray!
My hands were feeling a bit cool again but I reckoned I was getting somewhere near the end and I was overall pretty warm, so I ignored it.
Another runner and I seemed to have fallen into pace with each other. We’d had a short chat now and again. It was nice not to be completely on my own all the time. And I felt I’d done my bit for humanity when I yelled at him as he disappeared off into the woods on the wrong trail at one point.
My hands were, to be honest, a bit chilly, but the end was in sight. Less than five kilometres to go.
‘You know what?’ I thought a little on, ‘my hands are really getting cold. It’s not comfortable and I should put my gloves back on, however illogical that feels.’
My hands were in fact so cold that I could barely pull my gloves out of the pocket in my pack, and I fumbled to get them on. My trail chum caught me up and asked if I was ok and I stammered ‘mes mains sont froides’. He’d been very caring when I’d tripped on a root and fallen flat on my face too.
I got the gloves on and immediately felt so much better. In fact my cold hands had been a real distraction and an increasing discomfort. I had been stupid to ignore it and think that I would be okay.
I came in third female – but if someone had been hot on my heels I could have lost that place simply because of my gloves stupidity.
On the side of caution
Ever since then I err on the side of caution. If it’s even just a little chilly I start my run in gloves. And if I’ve taken my gloves off and my hands start to cool down, back on they go. No arguments. No delay.
Just because your whole body is hot at 5km doesn’t mean it will stay hot for the whole run. It’s not uncommon for runners to get the chills while running and we really need to be aware of what’s happening in our bodies and look out for ourselves. Feeling cold in any part of your body isn’t great. I’d rather carry an extra layer, a spare warm hat, another pair of running jumgloves just in case, than find myself a long way from home feeling chilly and stupid.
How you feel now
So that’s my running tip for today – wear gloves, and however hot you were earlier in your run, how you feel NOW is what matters.
Happy trails everyone and thanks for reading.
You might also like my post ‘Running short (of French)’,
or check out my new Trail Running page… just a little more about why I run, what I’ve run and what I’m planning to run!