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Cold Weather Events: Embrace the Elements


For some of you out there, your geographic location is going to force you to deal with some colder weather if you want to have a running event between November and February. Others may only get an occasional cold blast during the time of year their event is scheduled. Whichever category you fall into, there are important details that need to be considered.

Cold Weather Events:  Embrace the Elements

RaceDirector was founded in Cleveland, so we know a thing or two about the cold. If you live here for any period of time, you either fully hibernate in the wintertime or you layer-up and keep moving! People in places like Dallas are generally pretty temperate, but depending on the year, can get an arctic front that sweeps down the plains and blankets the area with sub-freezing temperatures as well as ice and snow. Thanksgiving Day in Dallas can be 82 and sunny or 30 degrees with a 40 mph wind out of the north.

Frozen Tundra Climates
If you know it will be cold every year at your event then build and market your event as a means of embracing and celebrating the season. There are some logistics and infrastructure in place that will make it more enjoyable for everyone. People need to be able to stay warm waiting for a race to start so many will add extra layers of old clothes they plan on tossing off in the first few miles of the event as their bodies warm up. Partner with the Salvation Army or a local charity that can gather these items up and put them to good use. You can place bins near aid stations and encourage people to not just throw them anywhere along the course.

Related: How to put on Jingle Bell Runs and Turkey Trots

The running is the main thing of course, but people also enjoy a festive scene and a good after party, but if they immediately begin to develop hyperthermia after finishing, most will probably make a dash for the car and seek out a hot shower at home. If you provide a secure area for drop bags where people can shed the wet running gear and pull on some warm layers, they will be more likely to stick around. Provide hand warmers in the race bag or make your race swag a cool beanie. Hot chocolate and a fire pit of some kind if allowed does not hurt either.

If-you-do-not-like-the-weather-wait-an-hour Climates
If you live in a place where the weather can vary wildly from year-to-year as we described above, then you want to have contingency plans in place and adjust your level of preparation in the final weeks as the predicted weather model becomes more accurate. Of course Murphy's Law applies and weather forecasters are like broken clocks, so have a plan for the worst case scenario and hope you do not have to put it into action.

This might involve having a large indoor space near the start that runners can utilize to stay out of the elements until just before the race begins. The size of your event might limit your ability to do something like this, but if you can shift part of the before and after festivities indoors you can make the best of a messy situation. Communicate with your runners if it looks like your event is going to be much colder than expected and encourage them to embrace things and use the strategies outlined for cold climates.

Think like a Boy Scout: Be Prepared
Safety concerns are a top priority at any event, but when the weather turns extremely cold or wet and nasty there are unique precautions that need to be taken. Sub-freezing temperatures and water on a roadway are a recipe for disaster for runners. This is especially true around aid stations where water is sloshed about everywhere. Err on the side of caution and utilize salt or sand to make sure that the area around an aid station does not turn into a hockey rink. Post some extra signs with warnings and over-communicate to your runners on your website and at the start when you hand out last-minute instructions and information.

Related: Safety Concerns Every RD Should Consider

Electronics utilized in timing systems and other infrastructure for your event will be under additional pressure in weather that is cold, wet, and windy. Enclosing sensitive equipment out of the elements or even behind a wind break will go a long way to keep everything working. in more extreme situations you may have to utilize more manual options to complete your event. You should always be prepared for technology failure. Also take extra care to secure banners, signage and all start/finish tents and archways.

There is no bad weather, only soft people
We get it that people like their comfort, but how much more rewarding is that hot shower and spending the rest of the afternoon in your sweats on the couch after braving the elements and getting the run done? Turn a negative into a positive and encourage your participants to embrace the extra challenge. It could turn out to be the part about your event that year they talk about and remember the most.

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