When Cache Valley temperatures drop below freezing this year, most will be reaching for hot chocolate and a warm fire, but don’t be surprised to see Todd Hugie running alongside cars in sub-zero temperatures.
“There’s no problem running in the cold,” Hugie said. “It’s a myth that cold weather hurts your lungs. I’ve ran when it’s negative 10 degrees.”
Hugie, vice president of the Cache Valley Sun ‘N Snow Runners Club, would know. Having run in dozens of marathons, and even experimenting with a few ultra-marathons, he’s experienced almost every type of weather that exists, yet it doesn’t faze him.
“Running is the type of sport you can do from an early age to old age,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”
The Sun ‘N Snow Runners club was founded in 1979. Created so runners in Cache Valley could find new sites and trails and run them as a group, the club initially had a hard time catching on, despite the hundreds of avid runners that lived in the valley.
“We couldn’t get a whole lot of people to run,” said club president Jeff McMurdie. “Maybe the running community isn’t interested in group runs.”
With this in mind, the officers began to focus on events. Hugie said the club now sponsors more than 20 runs, and helps out with many more. He said four of the runs they sponsor hold a USATF certification, which means they can qualify runners for larger races like the Boston Marathon and even the Olympics.
Hugie said one of the biggest events of the year is the club’s Top Of Utah Marathon, which generally brings in runners from almost every state as well as five or more countries.
“The Top of Utah is a world-class marathon,” Hugie said. “It’s the best event for the cost. I encourage people to set a goal and come out.”
Even though the club has changed, its goal has remained the same for more than 30 years.
“Our mission as a club is physical fitness in the community,” Hugie said. While the group is made up of predominantly older, more experienced runners , they encourage runners of all ages and expertise to join them.
“We have a lot of different people, from age 1-90, run in our races,” he said. “We have variety of people aren’t even members of the club running.”
It may seem like a hard habit to start, Hugie said, but running’s benefits far outweigh temporary pain. Lots of beginning runners have problems with painful shin splints, but he advises running through them even if it takes a few months. The best way to ease into running, he said, is a good diet and lots of rest.
“A lot of people think they need to eat special foods, but they don’t. Diet and sleep are important. Eat fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats for a good balanced diet.”
McMurdie’s advice is to take it slow.
“When starting; run, walk, run, walk, run, walk and then repeat over a specific period of time. It’s just about a start slow, and building up to a goal. Go slow.”
McMurdie said when he started running in high school, he took it a mile at a time.
“We were lifting weights five days a week. The coach told us we could go run instead. I started running a mile, two, three,” he said. “I saw a marathon and thought ‘that’s crazy.'” Despite his initial shock, McMurdie started training for a 5k and moved up step by step to ultra-marathons.
The running conditions in Logan can be ideal for most of the year, but cold weather can be detrimental to new runners. Light, warm clothing and good shoes are must-haves, Hugie said. Moisture-wicking clothing made of polyester is best, because it stays warm and dry but weighs very little.
For those who would rather stay away from snow and rain, there are options. Hugie runs on campus almost every week.
“The Fieldhouse is one of the best places to run. It has eight laps to a mile. The track is great.”
In the end, the biggest key to running is to begin.
“Just start doing it. This time of year is hard,” said long-time runner and club member David Burton.
Burton said he started running in his early 20s, after seeing the Boston Marathon on TV.
“I started training right after that, and ran my first marathon a year later,” he said. Since 1985, he has run 35 marathons along with many shorter races.
McMurdie insists that by taking one step at a time, running can become a lifelong habit.
“Even with all the other events you can do like basketball, baseball, racquetball, volleyball and dance, with running the roads are always open. You can always run.”
For more information, visit the club online at http://www.sunandsnowrunners.com.