how i prepare for extreme cold weather running

extreme cold weather running gear

Happy New Year, my friends! It’s been a minute since my last post, sharing our 2023 in numbers, but we’ve been really soaking up the holiday season as a family. And, now, I write this post whilst the kiddos and I are officially down for the count with Covid. I might not actually be running for the next few days as I recover, but I’ve had quite a few questions on my instagram about how I prepare for extreme cold weather running here in Alaska, so I figured I’d share the [little] bit that I’ve learned thus far here at Fort Wainwright!

Why I Embrace Extreme Cold Weather Running

For those who’ve followed my blog for some time, you know that I love running. I’m by no means a fast runner, nor will I ever be a great runner, but I love it. It’s been the single-most effective morale and mental health boost that I’ve ever found, and it’s been such a game changer. I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2017, and my big goal is to run another marathon – and simply do better than I did that time, which is a pretty low bar.

Here in Alaska though, running outside is a different ballgame. Here, we either embrace extreme cold weather running, or we run on a treadmill for about 6-7 months out of the year. I’m happy to admit that I sort of combine the two, as we’re lucky to have a treadmill. Given a choice though, I’ll always choose running outside – even when cold. I usually run early in the morning before the kids wake up and, even in the winter, it’s such an absolute boost to my day and, quite literally, gets me started off on the right foot.

winter running alaska

extreme cold weather running gear

How I Tackle Winter Running in Alaska

I look at running outdoors sort of like I look at hiking – with the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad weather…just bad gear.” Now, I’ll caveat that with the fact that I absolutely have my limit. I don’t run outside under -20F because winter running is all about a balancing act.

Sweat is your enemy in the cold, and I absolutely still sweat when I run. So, I won’t run under -20F because I get too cold and too frozen too fast. I have discovered that I need to cap my runs at about 45-60 minutes outside when it’s about -16F to -10F, and above that, I can usually comfortably run for about 90 minutes. I always, always play it by ear though, and if something is too cold, I switch gears and move inside.

running in alaska winter

extreme cold weather running

What I Wear for Winter Running in Alaska

Layers are the name of the game for me out here! I find that it really all starts with the proper base layer, then you sort of build from there. Here is what I wear when running outside in the winter in Alaska:

I have tried just about every glove and mitten under the sun, and I have this pear of cheap mittens from Panda Mart in Korea that are literally the warmest in the entire world. I spend the money where it matters – like the shell – but sometimes going simpler with things like the mittens works best, and they are warm. My visibility vest is also worth every penny and keeps me visible in the long, dark winters here.

favorite amazon purchases winter in alaska

The Bottom Line About Winter Running in Alaska

Ultimately, it’s all about listening to your body. I’m no hero. I see plenty of people out there running far longer and faster than myself, and many spend far more money on things like Icebugs running shoes, but my Yaktrax work great, I go nice and slow, and I embrace the cold temperatures until they’re unbearable.

Winter running here is cold, but it’s quiet, calm, and so peaceful. There’s something really nice about being able to embrace the cold and, thankfully, great gear has changed everything for me!