When hitting the trails in the depths of winter a few extra pieces of kit can make a massive difference. Our Aviemore manager Martin (pictured right), is an experienced ultra distance runner and lives in the beautiful Cairngorms. Winter in the highlands can bring breathtaking scenery and as Martin explains, taking the right kit is essential for both peace of mind and to get the maximum enjoyment from your run.
The Clothing & Equipment
"Where you live and what type of running you do will determine what gear is required. There's the obvious things like a hat and a pair of gloves, but if you like to venture off the beaten track then you should consider what you might come up against. If like me you suffer from Raynaud's then you might want to consider a mitt instead of a glove - keeping your fingers together certainly helps with warmth. [Check out our top tips on keeping your hands warm here] - ed.
"Basic winter running gear would be a pair of long running tights, a long sleeved running top and a pair of good, well-gripping running shoes along with some decent running socks. You can add to this whatever you like according to temperature, but layering is key - you might get warm quickly but in cold conditions you lose body heat very fast if you stop."
"Often a winter run may take considerably longer than the same run during summer and when your working day starts and ends in the dark, a decent headtorch is vital. It needs to be able to light up the path or trail you will be running on - it's very easy to go over on your ankle if you can't see what's coming up, so make sure it has plenty of lumens (the higher the lumen the brighter the light) and if you like to be out for a good long run, it will need to be comfortable as well as lightweight. The Petzl Reactik+ fits the bill perfectly. It may cost a little more than some headtorches, but it's easy to spend less and not be satisfied then end up buying another head torch!
"A hydration pack with room for some extra layers, such as the Salomon Trail 20. Things to carry in the pack might be a lightweight waterproof like the Inov-8 HZ Stormshell, which is fully taped and has a hood that will likely be needed in winter.
"Basic essentials would be a map and compass and even a GPS if venturing into the hills, a mountain whistle, a survival blanket, some food of some sorts (whatever works for you, not everyone likes gels!), an extra long sleeved wicking top and a mobile phone in case of emergencies.
"I always use either a Garmin Fenix 3 or a Suunto Ambit 3 Vertical HR. These will let me check the my distance, speed, elevation and time, and allow me to download all my data onto a laptop to view later on. An iPod is a good idea - if you're keen you can listen to a podcast like Talk Ultra or Marathon Talk giving tips about running whilst you're running! Or just play some of your favourite tunes, allowing you to keep a rhythm and boost morale.
"The choice of running shoes will depend on the terrain and conditions, so extra grip may be needed if it's muddy or if there's snow. Usually I wouldn't run in GORE-TEX shoes, but in the winter if it's very cold and snowy then they will help keep your feet that little bit warmer. A pair of Yaktrax Pros will help running in the snow and ice, with the extra strap on the pro model helping keep them attached to your feet as the shoes flex.
"A pair of poles can make a long run less tiring especially if there's plenty of ascent, and they can help when you encounter heavy snow. The Black Diamond Compactor Poles weigh next to nothing and pack down so small you can run with them collapsed in your hands.
Winter Running Routes
"Around Aviemore we are spoilt for choice for great running. You can be out as long as you like and make your run as easy or hard as you want. This is a run I like to do that is easy to get to, involves a bit of height and once you are at the top you can just keep going and seldom see anybody else (wildlife guaranteed). This particular time I used it as an out and back, to get used to running up and downhill, but there's a great loop to Carrbridge if time allows."