When snow strikes the UK most of us are happy to abandon our plans to run, or at least retreat to the treadmill until warmer weather returns. And there’s nothing wrong with that – snow runs can be magical affairs with epic views, but they can also be slippery, freezing nightmares.
However, one man who never says no to a bit of snow is Dr Andrew Murray, an ultramarathon runner and Merrell ambassador. Murray is a two-time Genghis Khan Ice Marathon champion and even temperatures below -40℃ don’t stop him from lacing up.
Coach asked Murray about his experiences running in the extreme cold and, more importantly, why on earth he chooses to do so.
How and why did you start running ice marathons?
Running is my way of seeing the world. I’ve enjoyed running in all conditions, from the jungles of Indonesia, to the mighty Namib, Gobi and Sahara deserts, as well as all sorts of cold places. I actually like the cold the most. The sun and I don’t mix that well – perhaps because I’m Scottish and have ginger hair! Places like far north Canada in winter are epic because of the Northern Lights, and Outer Mongolia in winter is an experience I’ll never forget, with more huskies than vehicles.
What’s your PB?
I’ve run 3hr 7min on ice. The conditions were actually pretty decent, with mostly ankle-deep snow and it being relatively warm at -25℃ that day. Ankle-deep snow is way easier than either deep snow or sheet ice – deep snow just saps your energy and on sheet ice it’s difficult to get much purchase.
Do you do any specific training to prepare for running in those conditions?
During the winter in Scotland you can get cracking cold conditions in the hills. It’s all pretty accessible – within an hour of Glasgow or two from Edinburgh – and it’s pretty cool to get out there and see familiar hills in the snow, then grab a hot chocolate or tomato soup at the bottom to defrost.
How do you stay warm?
It depends how cold it is, but once you are beyond -40℃ it’s definitely hard work. The general principles are to wrap up in lots of thin layers so they can be added or removed, rather than wearing one big layer. Ensure you have hat, balaclava, gloves and spare gloves. You can always buy commercial hand and foot warmers too. I tend to run in the Merrell Gore-Tex range with Sealskinz socks, both of which keep the heat in.
What extra equipment do you use?
Essentially I’ll have leggings and a long-sleeved top – one or two of each – a midlayer top, a balaclava, a buff, warm gloves, a compass, a map, a fully charged phone, some money and often some ski goggles. I also carry some food and something to drink – in something designed to keep it from freezing – plus emergency clothing in case I fall and break an ankle or something.
Do you slip over a lot?
It depends how the conditions are in terms of the ice and what I’m wearing on my feet. Having raced a few times on ice I’ve worked out what to wear on my feet, so probably less than most!
The Best Running Headtorches | Coach
It takes a hardy person to not only head out for a run at night, but to do so in a place without street lights. If you are one of those runners, we salute you. Your bravery and commitment to the sport know no bounds.
We also heartily encourage you to get a good headtorch, because running in pitch-black conditions is a recipe for disaster even if you stick to the flattest asphalt. And if you are heading off-road then only the very brightest of headlights will do, if only because tripping over a root in the woods while running in the dark sounds like the start of a horror film.
Avoid unexpected pitfalls on your night runs with one of these hyper-bright headlights.
Best Budget Option: Kalenji ONNIGHT 710
While it’s not as bright and long-lasting as some of our other picks, the ONNIGHT 710 is an excellent cheap option that will more than suffice for runners who aren’t looking to log all-nighters on the trails. The rechargeable battery lasts three hours at the highest 300-lumen light setting, which is bright enough provide around 75m of visibility, and there are two lower lumen settings (120 and 30) when you’re looking to conserve juice.
Buy from Decathlon | £24.99
Best For City Runners: Black Diamond Iota
The Iota is a very lightweight headlamp that’s great for short runs in dark urban areas rather than complete wilderness. The max output is only 150 lumens and the battery powers that level of brightness for just two hours, but the Iota’s very comfortable to wear. The battery is rechargeable and there’s a three-level gauge that shows how much you have left when you turn the light on.
Buy from Amazon | £36.69
Best Budget Smart Headtorch: Petzl Reactik+
This smart headlight is the ideal option for those who hate having to adjust their lamp during a run. The Reactik+ takes in the ambient light around you and automatically adjusts its beam to suit the conditions, although you can override the automatic lighting whenever you like. It also links with an app so you can set up the light profile you want and get details on how much battery life you have left – on the brightest setting of 300 lumens the rechargeable battery will last 2½hours.
Buy from Amazon | £67.74
Best For Ultramarathon Runners: Petzl Nao+
An altogether more extreme option for those who frequently run through the night on technical terrain. The Nao+ has a 750-lumen front light which reacts to ambient light like the Reactik+ does, and also a back light which is often a requirement for entering through-the-night ultramarathons. The rechargeable battery will last 6½ hours on the highest setting, and you can move the battery pack from the headband to a belt accessory to make the Nao+ more comfortable to wear for long periods.
Buy from Amazon | £124.37
Best For Battery Life: Black Diamond Icon
By opting for four AA batteries rather than a rechargeable unit, the Icon offers a monster 70 hours of juice on its highest 500-lumen setting. You might be thinking that strapping four AA batteries to your noggin will make the Icon uncomfortable and you’d be right, but fortunately the pack can be moved to waist pack or pocket easily.
Buy from Amazon | £69.50
How To Maintain Your Willpower During Sober October
If you’re currently in the middle of an attempt to avoid alcohol throughout the month of October, then all power to you. Taking a month off the booze is a great way to reassess your relationship with alcohol, and also to show off the benefits of cutting back to both your health and your wallet.
However, let’s not pretend that it’s going to be an easy ride. By the middle of the month your motivation to stay dry is probably starting to wane.
“The first week is often the easiest,” says Jo Hemmings, a behavioural psychologist and supporter of Macmillan’s Go Sober for October. “And the last is OK because you’re in the home straight. Weeks two and three are usually the most difficult, when your willpower is at its lowest.”
If you are finding it harder and harder to stay on the wagon as October progresses, then heed this advice from Hemmings on how to maintain your motivation.
Look In The Mirror
The benefits of going booze-free become apparent very quickly.
“After just a week, your skin will look better, you’ll have better-quality sleep and you will probably have lost a few pounds,” says Hemmings. “Embrace those positives.”
A dry October provides a well-timed health boost as well, because Christmas is around the corner. When you consider all the partying to come, a sober October will start to feel like a blessing.
“Christmas is coming up. It’s a time of excess – whether food, spending or alcohol,” says Hemmings. “With your one month sober, you’ll be in tip-top physical and psychological health.”
Treat Yo’ Self
If you’re someone who frequently hits the pub after work, the amount of cash you’ll have saved after just a couple of weeks will be considerable. Put that money towards something more lasting than a couple of quick drinks.
“Think of the money you’re saving and maybe treat yourself to something,” says Hemmings.
Occupy Your Mind
The hardest times to avoid alcohol will be the times you’d normally be drinking so it’s helpful to come up with alternatives.
“Don’t clock-watch,” says Hemmings. “If you’re someone who likes a drink on a weeknight, for example, do something else to take your mind off the booze.”
One thing you could try is exercise. That might sound like a joyless double whammy – no booze and you have to work out – but exercise will make you feel excellent, we promise. And given that you’ve been off alcohol for a couple of weeks, you’ll be feeling healthier and readier to work out.
“While you’re feeling fitter, do some regular exercise. It releases feelgood endorphins, the body’s natural narcotic,” says Hemmings.
Get Creative With A Mocktail
When the going gets really tough, try a mocktail to take the edge off the urge to drink without actually indulging.
“They taste great and give you the satisfaction of a booze-free cocktail,” says Hemmings. “You can find some great examples on the Go Sober For October website.”
Get Some Social Support
As long as you avoid certain areas of the internet, you’ll find it a very supportive place. Lots of people will be trying to stay dry this October, and lots of them could be struggling just like you, so get online and start backing each other up. Check out the hashtag #GoSober on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find other people signed up for Macmillan’s Go Sober For October campaign.
Remember One Drink Isn’t The End Of The World
Stay sober if you can, obviously – but if you do have a drink, don’t let it spiral out of control and give up on the month entirely.
“If you do find yourself tempted into a drink, don’t be hard on yourself,” says Hemmings. “It happens. Don’t give up, just start back again tomorrow. Don’t let one bad day spoil your efforts.”
This Parmesan And Broccoli Festoni With Maple-Cured Bacon Recipe Is A Great Mid-Week Dinner
To answer what is probably your first question, it’s a type of pasta, and yes, you can use penne instead. Festoni might be a more exciting ingredient to throw into the mix, but it’s not the easiest type of pasta to find so you can stick with the trusty tube if needs be.
Your second question might well involve some combination of the words “parmesan”, “bacon” and “healthy” in a questioning tone. And sure, this isn’t the healthiest recipe on Coach (there’s white wine in it, too, and let’s face it, you’re not letting the rest of the bottle go to waste are you?), but we’re very much of the view that cooking for yourself with whole foods is an easy route to improving your diet, which is why we thought this recipe from Waitrose was worth sharing. Plus, we’re not saying you should eat bacon and cheese for every breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, we’ll actively say not to do that. Don’t do that.
Anyway, this dish also has broccoli in it, so there you go. The recipe below calls for purple-sprouting broccoli spears, but if they’re not available you can use tenderstem instead.
Preparing the ingredients should take around ten minutes and cooking only 15, meaning that this recipe is a great quick meal you can pull together in the evening on work nights when time is tight. That’s as long as you haven’t spent an hour in the local shop trying to find festoni pasta.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 400g festoni (or penne) pasta, dried
- 2 x 200g packs purple sprouting broccoli spears
- 2tsp olive oil
- 250g maple-cured smoked back bacon, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 150ml dry white wine
- 50g freshly grated parmesan
- Cook the pasta according to pack instructions. Meanwhile, trim the thick ends from the broccoli and cut the stems into 1cm lengths, leaving the florets whole. You should have about 300g, including some of the broccoli leaves. Add to the pasta water for the final two to three minutes then drain, reserving about 4tbsp of the cooking water. Return the pasta and broccoli to the pan, covering to keep warm.
- Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the bacon for four to five minutes until crispy. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Pour in the wine and let it bubble, scraping up any bits from the base of the pan, until the wine is reduced by half.
- Add the broccoli, pasta and reserved water to the pan. Mix together, then add most of the parmesan, stirring until all the ingredients are coated.
- Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and the remaining cheese.
Recipe and image courtesy of waitrose.com
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