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Wichita Winter Running Guide

I used to avoid running outside when it was cold because… well, it’s cold. I like being able to feel my fingers, thank you very much. And I’m pretty attached to my toes, so I’d rather not have them frozen off. But in the past few years, I’ve discovered running in Wichita during the winter doesn’t have to suck, if you know how to dress and where to go. (I also learned there are bragging rights that come with running outdoors in sub-freezing temps.)

If you don’t have a “dreadmill” at home, the only way to get miles in when it’s cold is to bundle up and head to the gym, where you may have to dodge people playing on their cell phones on the track. Or, you could waste time searching for an open, working treadmill. Fortunately, there’s another way.

Here are my top six tips for running outside in Wichita during the winter:

  1. Visit a Running Store
    Wichita is fortunate to have two running stores: First Gear Running Company and Fleet Feet Sports. The experts there can get you outfitted with all the winter running gear you’ll need, hook you up with races and group runs and point out the best running routes in town.

  2. Discover the Rail Trail
    My favorite place to run on cold, windy days is the rail trail. It’s an old Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line that’s been converted to a running and biking trail. Different sections have different names, like the Redbud Trail and the Prairie Sunset Trail, but it runs all the way through Wichita, from Andover past Goddard. Some sections are paved and some are crushed gravel, and there are trees and buildings along much of the path that help block the wind.

  3. Take Advantage of Miller’s Meadow While You Can
    There are reports it will be closing in the next few months, but Miller’s Meadow is worth checking out. The biking and running trail is a 5-mile loop with lots of trees to help block the wind, and it’s located on Pawnee just west of 143rd Street East. Keep an eye on the weather, though, because the trail is closed when it’s muddy. The course is technical and can be challenging if you’re not used to running trails, but it’s a fun place to get in a few miles.

  4. Join Local Races and Running Groups
    They say misery loves company, so if you need some motivation to head out the door on cold days, sign up for one of the many winter 5Ks in Wichita or hook up with a running group. In addition to the running stores in town, RunWichita.org is a good resource for local races, and they recently added a Facebook page for finding running groups and setting up group runs.

  5. What to Wear
    You don’t need a lot of fancy or expensive gear to run in the winter, but a hat or ear warmers, a good pair of gloves and lip balm are musts. A facemask or balaclava will protect your face from windburn, and a pair of gaiters over the tops of your shoes will keep snow out. If it’s snowy, wear sunglasses to block the glare, and buy an inexpensive headlamp so you can see when running in the dark morning or evening hours.

    The most important things to remember when dressing for a winter run are to cover your skin when it’s below freezing and always dress in layers. Thin layers of clothing made from moisture-wicking fabric will trap your body heat and keep you warmer and more comfortable than one big bulky layer. And if you get too hot, you can just take off a layer. In Kansas, we usually have a brisk wind to contend with, so a light, wind-resistant jacket is a great top layer.

  6. Be Safe and Know When to Stay Inside
    Most runners get called crazy at some point, but please, be safe, too. Wear reflective clothing when running in the dark so cars and other runners can see you. If the sidewalk or path is icy, try running in the grass or on a dirt road, or just brave the gym for one day.

    Now, go earn yourself some bragging rights, then treat yourself to a hot chocolate recovery drink!

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