Out in the cold

Juneau runners won't let winter weather stop them

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

Wind: Steady, 20 to 30 mph. Temperature: In the 20s, depending on cloud cover. Precipitation: Rain, snow, sleet ... all possibilities. Perfect weather for a run.

Sound torturous? Not for a number of area runners.

"Once you've been running, you just want to keep running," said Glenn Frick, a longtime Juneau runner.

He's not the only one who thinks so. Every Sunday at 7:30 a.m. a group of men and women who call themselves the Smokin' Old Geezers get together for a run.

They're "smokin' " because they're fast. (The group, whose runners average seven- to seven-and-a-half-minute miles, considered changing its name to the "Smolderin' Old Geezers" a while ago, said Frick, but decided against it.)

And even though some of them are older than the average runner, they're hardly geezers. Last Sunday's run was a 12-mile jaunt to Spaulding Meadows, near Auke Bay, and the group gathered for a special Thanksgiving run last Thursday that lasted nearly an hour and a half.

The weather doesn't stop many runners in Juneau.

Mary Ellefson, who runs with the Geezers as well as on her own during the week, said the weather has never kept her off her feet. Her theory is that "there's no bad weather, just bad clothes," a sentiment shared by many local outdoor enthusiasts.

Ellefson believes there is safety in numbers, in proper reflective gear and in lots of warm clothing. Safety is especially important when running on trails, an activity that is often more hazardous than running on road. For the weekend's trail run, the Geezers ran in a pack of 12, brought food for a mid-run energy boost, and carried a cell phone.

Layers are key, said Nugget Alaskan Outfitters managing partner Ron Flint.

"Polypropylene fleece pants and tops, reflective vests, hats and gloves are what you need," he said.

For the ice, he recommends a product called Get A Grip, a rubber sling with six carbide studs that is slipped on the soles of shoes.

"Or, the screws that are good for hiking can also be used for running - you just have to dedicate one pair of shoes to winter running," he said. The short screws are drilled into the soles of shoes, increasing traction.

Most runners agree that the ice can be treacherous, but not all think the special studs are necessary.

"I screw three-quarter-inch sheet metal screws into the bottom of my shoes, and they work fine," said Mike McKrill, who has been running with a group of men every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at noon for the past 15 years. "We run all winter long, unless there's 6 inches of slush or something," he said.

Admittedly, most runners don't show the same dedication to the sport in the winter months that they do in the summer. Gerry Buckley, another member of the Geezers, continues to run, but not as often.

"Most runners run less but mix in other sports. I cross-country ski," he said.

Glen Frick doesn't bother with special screws for his shoes.

"When it's too icy to run, I ski," he said.

Why run at all?

"Running in winter lets you see some amazing things," said Ellefson, referring to the whales spotted off the shore of areas out Glacier Highway last week, and another pack that visited the waters around North Douglas last year. "You can be a tourist in your own town."

Seeing the sun rise on Spaulding Meadows last weekend was, for Ellefson, "a totally spiritual experience."

Christine Schmid can be reached at nrclerk@juneauempire.com.

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