With more parkrun events appearing across the US, we hear more questions from parkrunners about parkrunning in cold winter temperatures. parkrun events continue year round, but what about in extreme weather?
The short answer is that safety is paramount, for parkrunners and volunteers alike. And the local Run Director for each parkrun event makes the call on whether to go ahead each Saturday. If in doubt, check your event’s website before leaving home.
We go ahead if it’s raining. But if the course is partly flooded then we may have to cancel or adjust the course. In some parts of the country snow is a routine part of life through the winter months, but they may have to cancel if the snow creates a safety hazard. Icy trails is a common reason for cancellations, because of the high risk of falling. Running in below freezing temperatures is entirely normal at many events, but extreme cold may make it hazardous to proceed, especially on an exposed route with elevated wind chills.
All parkrun events have a commitment to safety. But we leave the decision on whether to cancel to the local Run Director because local knowledge is key. Courses just a few miles apart may be icy or clear, depending on sunlight. Some events use trails that are routinely cleared in the winter. Sometimes the course is fine, but transportation is unsafe. And local preparedness varies: temperatures that everybody in Minnesota is used to living with would be extreme outliers in North Carolina.
Individuals differ too. Some parkrunners with asthma or Reynaud’s syndrome may be more affected by the cold, while parkrunners with cystic fibrosis are more affected by heat. So the fact that your local parkrun is going ahead does not mean that it’s the right choice for you.
But for most people it is possible to run year round, with suitable preparation. Layer up, protect extremities, and avoid standing around while wet. If there’s a layer of snow underfoot, it can be fun to get in a run, but perhaps not the time to go for a PB.
And we also need to think of our wonderful parkrun volunteers, who are typically standing for over an hour. Gloves are essential. Handwarmers can help. If there is parking next to the start/finish area then volunteers may be able to get warm in a car while waiting for the first finishers to return.
In cold temperatures we have even more reason than usual to be on the look out for the safety of younger, older, or other at-risk parkrunners. If a participant falls or is unable to finish due to a medical condition, then they are at greater risk due to the cold. This makes the volunteer tail walker role even more important in cold weather. And it is an area where all parkrunners can help by being attentive.
Happy winter parkrunning!
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