Thursday, April 23, 2015

Running: West v. East Coasts

When running first became a hobby almost two years ago, I was happily sweating through those miles in California. I never really thought that people living elsewhere have completely different running experiences until I moved across the country to Pennsylvania. Since I made this big move in September, I didn't realize how drastic running would change, but now that I've lived in a different part of the country for bits of each season, I have a better understanding of what to expect in various conditions and locations.

Running in California, I never really had to think about what to wear. March-October I threw on a pair of shorts and a short sleeve tee; November-February I wore pants, some type of long sleeve shirt, and gloves. In the Winter I even sometimes wore a fleece lined ear warmer, but that was the extent of changing things up. As far as severe weather changes go, one of the first half marathons I ran was extremely hot, and it was only May! I don't remember the exact temperature, but towards the end of the race people were literally lying along the course, unable to get up and being hauled away via ambulance. While California can get extremely hot, this race is an anomaly. As long as you get your run out of the way in the morning and wear appropriate clothing, heat really isn't an issue. On the reverse side of the equation, the coldest I've ever been in California was running the CIM in the beginning of December. I'm pretty certain that the temperature stayed below freezing throughout the entire race. This was the only time on the West Coast that I needed to wear layers upon layers of clothing; I even added a heavy-weight fleece jacket to my race attire and wore it for a quarter of the marathon. Again, I'd consider this a rarity. Since seasons are pretty mild here, I never had to seek out special clothing to feel comfortable. However, I do run perpetually colder than most people.

After a brief running hiatus, I took up the hobby again in Philadelphia in the beginning of October, basically the heart of fall. I ran mostly in the afternoons or evenings. Like in California, in the beginning of the month I didn't have to think about what to wear, I didn't even check the weather before getting dressed. Shorts and a short sleeve shirt were perfect. It wasn't until the middle of the month where I truly needed to consider my running attire. Capris were a usually a good choice around this time. Eventually towards the end of the month though, pants and long sleeve shirts were my go-to running uniform. It was a gradual shift, but still required a change in my running wardrobe. This is also the month I stopped wearing shorts as part of my non-running daily outfits; I wore pants from here on out. Side note: I wore shorts for the first time since October this past Saturday! November and December were no brainers- pants, long sleeves, and another long sleeve light sweater. I added ear warmers and gloves as well. I even asked for the warmest pair of running pants I could find for Christmas because I could start to feel the temperatures quickly dropping. Come January though, things got interesting. I just always assumed that I'd still run outside in the snow, I'd just wear multiple layers of warmer clothes, no biggie. I was evening planning on buying special gadgets to slip-on over my shoes for added traction. It's a good thing I didn't invest in those though. January-mid March were filled with only treadmill and indoor track runs. Even though I was running inside I still wore pants, but I was able to get by with short sleeve tees. I did see a few people running outside during these months. All the power to you if you're able to withstand these single digit temperatures. My only advice to you is to find the warmest running gear ever invented, buy several of each piece, and simultaneously wear all of them. Mid-March it warmed up enough that I was comfortable running outside. I still wore my warmest pants, two long sleeve layers, and gloves. I dressed this way until the beginning of April or so. I ditched the gloves and second long sleeve layer, and started mixing things up by occasionally wearing capris. Mid-April I started getting toasty and switched to short sleeves, keeping long pants but mostly capris in rotation. Lauren even started wearing primarily shorts. There have been a handful of days this monthly that have been grotesquely humid and I wish I would've worn shorts too. The humidity causes me to profusely sweat even more than I already do (which is a ridiculous amount to begin with), which I think has caused a little bit of bra/back chaffing as well. I suspect that within the next month or so, I'll be wearing shorts and short sleeve tees all the time. I know that the humidity is only going to get worse in the next few months, so I may have to look into different running bras to prevent the rubbing and chaffing. Other than that, I think I'm set and very ready for the summer.

Hopefully those two long cluttered paragraphs weren't too confusing. But if they were, I'll summarize. On the West Coast (specifically California), you don't really need to think about what to wear. Even if you wear shorts in the middle of winter (I know a few people who do without issue), you'd still be fine. However, on the East Coast besides remembering what the current season is, it's also equally important to consider the fluctuating temperatures and the humidity percentages. I'd also recommend a gym membership for those below-freezing winter months, but that's just me! There are pros and cons to living on both sides of the country. The West Coast provides the perfect climate to make feeling comfortable all year long easily achievable. On the other hand, the East Coast offers real, changing seasons. Different strokes for different folks!   

So now my greatest climate concern is what type of running clothing to wear during the San Francisco Marathon in July. Being a West Coast city, you'd think it would be a pretty warm run as it's set in the dead heat of summer. However, also being a Bay Area city set along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, I'd expect it to be pretty breezy and slightly chilly, especially in the morning. I think I have built up my tolerance for cold temperatures over the past few months, but I don't know that this is going to be enough to keep me warm in shorts. I'll probably get too warm in pants, especially over the course of over 26 miles. I could always go with the ever-pleasing capris, but on the other hand, I'm most comfortable running  in either shorts or pants. I haven't found the perfect pair of capris yet, all of mine slip down. Decisions, decisions. Yes, this is definitely a first world problem.

I hope I shed some light on the differences of running on opposite coasts. Perhaps it seems way too obvious and this post was just silly. But, I have my best, most enjoyable runs when I'm most comfortable. For me, this means wearing comfortable weather appropriate clothing and having well-rest muscles of course, but that's an entirely separate story!