What To Wear For Cold Weather Running

PC: @DaleTravers
PC: @DaleTravers

With winter weather on the way and indoor workout options limited, many new runners and outdoor fitness buffs are finding themselves out in the cold for the first time.

For the uninitiated cold weather runner – as with any new activity – making preparations can be a bit daunting. What gear and apparel do you really need? How much do you need? When do you need it?

There’s no one-size-fits all answer to these questions. Although you can start with general guidance to make more informed decisions, you’ll need to undergo a little experimentation to find the best apparel solutions for your specific body and weather conditions. HOKA pro triathlete Sarah Crowley provided some insight into her favorite apparel items as someone who trains all around the world, in all conditions.

Before you start, consider the following:

Get specialized cold weather running apparel

Cold weather running comes with its own unique set of challenges that specialized apparel is designed to address.

Running too warm may cause profuse sweating, leaving you vulnerable to dehydration and drops in body temperature as excess moisture cools in the winter air. Run too cold and – there’s no delicate way of putting this – your nipples may chafe painfully.

So you need clothing that moves without causing chafing, insulates and breathes simultaneously, repels outer moisture, wicks inner moisture and still helps to regulate your body temp under a variety of conditions and pacing.

Specialized running apparel is built mostly from synthetic fibers with these concerns in mind, and tends to perform more comfortably than a mix-and-match “Frankenstein” approach. Your goal when setting out on each cold weather run is to combine the exact right set of specialized layers for the conditions you face, with some wiggle room as your core temp rises in response to exertion.

You can start with the basics and work your way up to a full complement.

PC: @DaleTravers
PC: @DaleTravers

Add cold weather running layer basics

You may have already assembled a full complement of comfortable warmer-weather running apparel which you can use as a base for winter runs. If not, consider upgrading to more run-specialized tank tops, performance tees, shorts, sports bras, socks, and (of course) shoes.

The number of additional cold weather layer options you’ll want to consider as “basic” depends on how cold it’ll get near you. You may not need to go for a full subzero puffer jacket if you live in Florida, for example.

Arranged from cool-to-cold, start with the following:

1. Performance long or ¾ sleeve tops – These versatile options can be worn with either shorts or running tights, making them the “first line of defense” option for when the weather turns cooler. They also serve as a great bottom layer under a variety of weatherproof and wind-resistant outer shells. It’ll help to have multiples.
2. Warmer socks – A few pairs of well-padded specialty running socks in half-calf lengths can serve as an easy intermediary bottom layer option between shorts and the next step up.
3. Running tights – Tights are the primary cold weather option for your bottom half and a strong base layer option. Although warmer top layers combined with shorts can make it easy to look past a pair of cold knees once you get up to speed, elevated core temps can lead to more sweating, and tights are a great way to mitigate this. As with any base layer of workout apparel, multiples will come in handy.
4. Running hats – Just having a thin, breathable layer on your head can change a lot, and even a small bill can come in handy in the rain. You have a lot of hat options, but consider the convenience factor of running hats designed for easy stowing without having to be carried. Sarah Crowley suggests using a hat or a small headband to cover the ears when the chill picks up.

Headband
5. Jackets and windbreakers – A thinner “shell” jacket or anorak layer is the next step up in added weather protection up top. These options work great as an outer layer in a variety of conditions, from a perfectly sunny warm day with wind gusts, to rain sleet and snow, to a helpful layer of heat retention on a downright chilly morning. As an outer layer, you can mix and match without needing multiples, but it’s nice to have options for wind vs. wet.
6. Joggers – Think of joggers as “windbreakers for your legs” in that they can be the right outer layer for a variety of conditions and temperatures – they work well over underwear, shorts or tights. Multiples are more of a nice-to-have than a “must” for starters. Sarah Crowley uses joggers over leggings when it’s super cold snowing and you just need to go outside for a run.
7. Headbands – Sometimes the little things make the biggest difference. Headbands insulate your most heat-intensive body part (your head) while also letting it breathe, and they’re also small and portable, making them no problem to add or remove during a run. Consider a headband as the easiest way to build “wiggle room” into your layering during a run. Multiples aren’t necessary, but if you stuff them into every pocket, finding them later when it’s chillier than expected can be better than a $20 bill in an old pair of jeans.
8. Half-zip pullovers or hoodie tops – When the thermometer dips to “officially brisk” territory, these thicker, versatile combo top layers become a better option. The half-zip and hoodie features allow some wiggle room for adding or subtracting insulation along your run (zip or unzip, hood up or down), and each comes in a variety of thicknesses and outer layer weather protection features. You might not need multiples of each, but it’s good to have an option or two. Sarah Crowley enjoys the flexibility of the half-zip pullover as it can easily be either unzipped or removed and tied around the waist if things heat up.

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9. Full hats and beanies – When it’s cold enough for the “convertible top” aspect of a headband to not be enough, throw on a beanie. You can even add a layer with an additional headband.
10. Puffer jackets – The nuclear option for when you’re absolutely going on an invigorating run and you don’t care how cold it is. A running-specialized option helps keep you warm while also flowing without restricting movement. If you’re not sure whether or not you need one, keep in mind that a puffer jacket also works as a coat for when your “run” is more errand-based.

To help guide you make your selection, below is a list of temperatures and possible clothing combinations:

* 60+ degrees: tank top/shirt and shorts
* 50–59 degrees: short sleeve tech shirt/ 3/4 sleeve shirt and shorts
* 40–49 degrees: long sleeve tech shirt, shorts or tights, gloves (optional), headband (optional)
* 30–39 degrees: long sleeve tech shirt, shorts or tights, gloves, and headband to cover ears
* 20–29 degrees: two shirts layered–a long sleeve tech shirt and a short sleeve tech shirt or long sleeve half zip pullover and thin shell jacket–tights, gloves, headband or beanie and neck buff (optional)
* 10–19 degrees: two shirts layered, tights, gloves, headband, and thin shell jacket and joggers
* 0–9 degrees: two shirts layered, tights and joggers, puffer jacket, two pairs of gloves or mittens, beanie, neck buff to cover face

Shop HOKA Running Apparel

PC: @DaleTravers
PC: @DaleTravers

Consider running shoes with additional traction

If you live in an area where cold weather running is likely to involve snow and ice, you might want to upgrade to a trail running or trail/road hybrid shoe option with additional traction features.

Of course, you’ll want to gauge your own comfort level with regard to safety, and find routes that won’t present as much of an issue under freezing conditions. No shoe can guarantee perfect traction on ice. Sarah Crowley’s favourite shoe in challenging weather is the Speedgoat 4 GTX, as it has great traction, cushioning and is waterproof.

For those who live up north (in terms of latitude or elevation) and/or are particularly hardcore about getting in that daily run no matter what, you may also want to look into spike attachments or snowshoes. Guidance on highly specialized snow and ice footwear options is best sought from local runner communities.

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Shop HOKA Trail Running Shoes
Experiment with layer combinations as you go

As you try out your cold-weather apparel, keep in mind that you may find gaps.

Maybe you don’t have a great layer combination for a day that’s not so much cold as blustery. Maybe your wet weather gear overheats you, and you need to reduce your base layer under your outer shell or find a more breathable option.

Some gaps can be filled with new apparel, some with different layering combinations, and some with additional preparations. Remember that your clothing isn’t the only tool you have to make your run comfortable as possible. Vaseline, balm or powder can be especially useful for reducing chafing and blistering in all the body parts where that’s frequently an issue.

As you get out there in the winter weather, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it right the first time. Gaining experience always requires a learning process.

And remember that these are clothes. If the worst case scenario is buying something comfortable you look and feel great in, that’s not so bad.

Good luck, and happy running. It’s Time to Fly™

PC: @DaleTravers
PC: @DaleTravers

Chasing Fastest Known Times with Ashly Winchester

Ashly Winchester knows a thing or two about Fastest Known Times (FKTs). In fact, she currently holds 36 different FKTs around the US. We asked Ashly to tell us about her journey towards FKTs, the logistics around an attempt, and more.

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PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

My journey into running was borne out of necessity; I needed a way to escape, and going for long, solo runs in the backcountry was the only way I found my solace.

I grew up in the wild spaces of Northern California. At a very young age, I would be sent outside along with my siblings with instructions to “go play.” We’d find a stream and follow it as far as we could, or go fish in the pond, or see who could climb the furthest up into the canopy of oak trees. I’d snack on wild blackberries, miner’s lettuce, and sheep sorrel as I trod on bare little feet through the grassy hills and valleys of my home. I’d pick wildflowers and dig up soaproot, cautiously aware of how much I took because Mom said to always leave enough for the plants to propagate. I’d bring these items back as gifts for her, although the blackberries rarely made it home.

Because of this childhood, being alone in the backcountry has never felt scary to me, on the contrary; it feels like home. The wilderness is my safe space, always there to wrap me up in solitude, free of judgement. It’s the only place where I truly feel like myself.

So when my adult life began to crumble within the grasp of domestic violence, I turned to the only thing that I knew would comfort me and bring me peace: I went home to the wilderness.

Completely lost in thought, I would disappear into the backcountry for hours and the miles would fly by. There’s something trance-like and meditative about running long distances, and it was the only way I could process what was going on. My anxiety and depression would lift and I could think clearly and logically again. It was on a particularly long run that I decided I needed to find a way out of the situation I was in. I’m not sure I would have made this decision if it weren’t for the thoughtfulness that comes with a good, long run. This simple act of putting one foot in front of the other saved me.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

My Journey Into FKTs

Running became a fundamental part of my life. It felt natural to try my hand at ultra-distance racing, but races always lacked something for me. Or perhaps it’s that racing offered more than I needed. As much as I enjoy the camaraderie that comes along with trail races, I crave the solitude of the wilderness. The crowds and noise and aid stations and colorful flags are too much for me.

That’s when I discovered Fastest Known Times, often called FKTs.

FKTs embody everything I love: big, solo, unsupported days in the wilderness with all the planning, prep, and logistics done on my own. The high mileage days in the wilderness coupled with the obsessive planning is exactly what feeds my soul. All of the noise and fanfare are removed. It’s just me and the wilderness and my goal. Nothing more.

FKTs have been gaining traction over the last few years, but there’s been a huge boom in popularity this year. The Covid epidemic has canceled races and key events for a lot of athletes, so it seems natural that some athletes have turned to FKTs. It’s been a manner in which runners can use their fitness from all the dedicated race training, and still accomplish a goal.
What is an FKT?

FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, and is essentially a speed record on an established trail, ridgeline, or mountain route. Common FKTs that many people are aware of include the John Muir Trail (Nuumu Poyo), Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Colorado Trail, and the Rim to Rim to Rim (R2R2R) of the Grand Canyon. These all happen to be longer trails, but FKTs can be short too, and encompass a wide range of terrain and technical aspects.

What most people don’t know is that there are hundreds of established trails and routes that have existing FKTs, or are just waiting for an FKT to be established. Fastest Known Times are accessible to anyone and you do not need to be an elite or professional athlete to take one on.

There are three main styles of FKTs:

  • Unsupported – You receive no outside help. You have no partners, pacers, or resupply. You are not allowed to leave caches for yourself, or accept help from “trail angels” (those nice strangers who offer help). You carry everything you need from start to finish. However, it is okay to collect water from natural sources.
  • Self-supported – You can set up pre-planned caches or resupplies for yourself, but receive no pre-planned help from anyone else. You may purchase items along the way, and you may also accept food or water from “trail angels.” Pacers and partners are not allowed.
  • Supported – You receive pre-planned help from someone, have pacers or partners, aid-stations, etc. This might mean that you have a crew helping you the entire time, or that one person hands you a bottle of water once. Any amount of assistance can make an effort classified as ‘supported,’ even if that assistance was not planned.

Keep in mind that what I’ve shared here are just guidelines, and that each FKT may have a different ethic surrounding it, meaning that rules for some FKTs may differ from others. It’s important to do the research and plan, plan, plan.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

How I Plan An FKT

One of the beautiful things about FKTs is that there’s a lot of room to plan and schedule your FKT attempt on your own terms. You can choose to attempt an FKT in any of the style formats listed above, during whatever time of year you choose, and starting at any time of day that suits you.

This freedom is one of the many reasons I love FKTs, but it also means that planning and prepping is immensely important. One of the things you’re paying for when you enter a race is the race director’s time and energy to plan and prep. You don’t have to carry all of your water and food because there are aid stations and drop bags and there are emergency personnel on standby should you become injured or ill. The route is marked and you (usually) don’t have to worry about all the logistics. Races are planned for you, so all you have to do is train.

So, if you want to try your hand at a Fastest Known Time record, where do you start?

First of all, when you find a route you want to attempt an FKT on, you need to study it. Seriously. REALLY study it. Knowing your route will help you plan your water and food, create an emergency plan, and set you up for success.

Here are some questions to ask yourself going into an FKT:

  • Am I capable of traveling the distance?
  • Am I comfortable with the terrain?
  • Are there technical aspects like class 3, 4, or 5 scrambling? Can I make those moves?
  • Is there off-trail travel and route-finding? Can I manage that?
  • Are there places to refill water? Is the water flowing? What is the quality of the water? Do I need to filter or treat it?
  • How much food do I need to bring?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • Do you need to prepare to be out there overnight?
  • Do I need wilderness permits?

These are just a few of the questions that I ask myself as I prep. You can also visit the Fastest Known Time website to research and find information on existing FKT routes. You’ll often find trip reports, photos, GPX files, and other information that will help you prepare.

As most endurance athletes know; it’s good to push yourself outside your comfort zone, but when taking on a solo or unsupported FKT you want to use caution so that you don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation that you can not handle on your own. Be as safe as possible, and take risks within reason.

Planning, training, and prep may take a matter of hours, days, or even months depending on your chosen adventure.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

Providing Proof

There’s no official governing body for FKTs, just passionate athletes who volunteer their time to verify records as best they can, so FKTs aren’t official records. But there are still some strict requirements that are necessary to prove that you completed a route.

The most important part of the verification process is providing GPS verification. You need GPS data that shows that you were where you were, when you say you were, and that you traveled at the speeds you claim. When submitting a new Fastest Known Time record on the website, you must submit a gpx file from your FKT attempt. More competitive routes may as that you also use live tracking tools, such as a SPOT tracker or Garmin InReach.

So what stops someone from cheating? The answer is: photos and trip reports. This is how you prove that you were the one who actually completed the FKT. Taking a selfie in key areas such as trail intersections and summits, or on any recognizable section of the route, will provide time-stamped photo evidence. Writing a detailed trip report adds an extra personalized touch on the whole experience.

The FKT admins take all of this information and make a decision on whether or not the FKT is legitimate.

Have Fun With It

There’s always competitiveness surrounding speed records, but the most important part to remember about chasing FKTs is that you enjoy it. There’s no medal and there’s no finisher’s purse for completing them.

My proudest FKT moments have been achieved completely alone in the middle of the night. Celebrating a completed FKT might involve making ramen soup in my Jetboil, cracking open an Athletic Brewing beer, and then falling asleep in the back of my car. For most FKTers, these are very personal endeavors.

Running Fastest Known Times has inspired me to find and run new-to-me trails and routes, and has given me the impetus I need to get out there, move my body, and learn new skills. And while most FKTs are done solo, there is a whole community of fellow FKTers who are cheering you on. Once you step foot in the FKT world, you’re part of the community. We all want to see one another succeed. We share beta and stories, and lift each other up… even if things don’t go as planned.

Some of the most interesting and memorable stories come from failed FKT attempts; those times where you truly push yourself, hit your limit, and learn the most. The pursuit of FKTs can give you the most formative experiences you’ve ever had. It’s not always about going fast.

PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)
PC: Nicole Kandra (@n_kandra)

Find more information at FastestKnownTime.com

Ashly Winchester is a runner, writer, and mountain guide based in Northern California. She is also the host of the podcast, Womxn Of The Wild. At the time of this writing, Ashly has collected 35 FKTs and is ranked as the number 1 female, and 3rd overall on the board at FastestKnownTime.com.

Ashly on Instagram: @ashly.winchester
Womxn Of The Wild on Instagram: @womxnofthewild

Take A Hike with Nicole Snell

Nicole Snell wears many hats: a CEO, an international speaker, a self-defense coach. However, what connects all of these different identities is Nicole’s passion for adventuring and the outdoors. We asked Nicole to tell us why she prefers to hike solo, where she finds the motivation to go after her audacious goals, who she hopes to inspire, and so much more.

PC: Erik Umphrey
PC: Erik Umphrey

Greetings HOKA community! Adventuring, hiking and exploring are integral parts of my life and I wouldn’t trade my experiences, failures or successes for anything in the world. Let me tell you how I got started.

I grew up in 29 Palms, a small desert military town just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, where my father was a retired Marine. Our town had 1 high school, no movie theater (but one awesome drive in) and the nearest mall or big retail store was 30mins to an hour away. There weren’t a lot of recreational activities for kids and teens but that didn’t bother me much because I could find plenty to do in the desert. I remember exploring the fields around my house, searching for lizards in the front yard, or being absolutely enamored that I found a grasshopper and remembered to hold it like my older brother taught me to. I would explore the washes for hours at a time and sit quietly in the open desert, feeling like the last human on earth, and listen to the sounds of life all around me. A lizard scurrying across the sand. A family of quail chirping and hooting as they led their covey from bush to bush. Ground squirrels poking their heads out of their dens to keep a watchful eye. Whenever I found a new plant, animal or insect my excitement would swell and I couldn’t wait to share the discovery.

Despite living so close to JTNP, my family wasn’t outdoorsy, so I didn’t visit the park as often as you’d think or I would have liked in my youth. The few memories I do have are of me scrambling along the rocks and the feeling of accomplishment when I got to the top of a particularly difficult formation. Standing there and surveying the landscape like I had just climbed Mt. Everest brought me such peace because being outside and connecting with the natural world and challenging myself to climb higher was an escape for me from everything else that was going on in my young life.

The desert wasn’t the only environment I explored as a kid. My aunt lived in the mountains above Fresno and during our occasional family visits, I would explore the wooded areas around her house which really brought out the adventurer in me. She had 2 dogs and a cat who would follow my sister and I on our trek through the brush and scrub oaks. With our trusty walking sticks we would spend hours outside enjoying the fresh air, taking turns on the tree swing and looking for interesting sights along the way. I was a sucker for collecting rocks (still am!) and anything shiny, different or neat looking was immediately gathered for further inspection back at the house. The neighbors had 2 donkeys and each night I would walk down the hill to the barbed wire fence and call out their names hoping they’d hear me across the field and come to the fence so I could feed them bits of fruit and veggies and give their long ears a scratch.

The desire for adventure has always lived within me and pictures of far off destinations that I saw in magazines or the places I saw on TV sparked my curiosity. I knew there was more to the world than what was in front of me. Even though I didn’t have anyone to look up to as an adventure role model, I didn’t need one in order to forge my own path because I’ve been stubborn from the get-go. I remember looking through a book in my 1st grade class that showed deep blue water, colorful fish and plants that looked like they were from another planet. The caption read the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ and I said to my teacher, “I’m going here one day”. I knew nothing about scuba diving, or that the Great Barrier Reef was on another continent. I only knew that this was something I wanted to do so I was going to make it happen. Throughout my life, others have tried to place limits on me or tell me what I should or shouldn’t want to do either because of my gender or my race, and I refused to listen. I will not ever let someone tell me I can’t do something, go somewhere or have an experience that I want. My life is mine to live and if that meant going against the norm, so be it. In 2016 I realized my childhood dream and dived the Great Barrier Reef…braving my overwhelming sea sickness to stay on a live aboard for 24hrs in order to do it. I was not about to let anything stop me!

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I got into solo adventuring mainly because there were a lot of activities that interested me-especially extreme sports- and I didn’t have friends who wanted to join me. I wasn’t going to let the schedules of others limit what I decided to do or keep me from trying something new, so I went by myself. The first big solo activity I did just out of college was snowboarding. I had always wanted to try it, so I booked a lesson, borrowed gear that didn’t fit, and drove up to the mountains where I rented a board and had the most amazing. One of my first and longest solo trips was my week in St. Maarten where I zip lined, rode horses across the beach (a bucket list item!) and swam out a half mile into the ocean to snorkel at a protected reef where watercraft of any kind was prohibited and you could only legally access it by swimming there!

My passion for hiking kicked into overdrive after completing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing on my solo trip to New Zealand. This 12mile “Great Walk” is a World Heritage site that passes between two active volcanoes, Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe (otherwise known as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings). It passes through alpine climates and takes between 6-9 hours to complete. That was the longest and most technical hike I had completed at that time and I was excited for the challenge.

Hands down, it was one of the most magnificent solo hikes of my life. Walking through the geothermically active terrain where the steam billows up from the ground was a once in a lifetime experience. Moving across volcanic craters and old lava flows was breathtaking. My favorite part was when I was descending from Red Crater and my eyes met the Emerald Lakes for the first time. The blue, green and teal of the waters due to the volcanic minerals of the soil contrasted with the light tan sand making them stand out like jewels. I stopped at this point for a good 45mins to enjoy the view. Six and a half hours after starting, I reached the Ketetahi Car Park, which marked the end of the hike. Other hikers clapped as I came across the ‘finish line’ triumphantly! I took a seat on a bench to relish my success, eat a snack and wait for the shuttle to return me to the hostel.

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After completing the Tongariro I knew I was capable of doing longer and more difficult hikes so when I got home, I started the Six Pack of Peaks challenge here in SoCal and began planning my trip to Peru to do the 4-day trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. For me a hike isn’t just about the summit or the final destination, it’s about enjoying the fresh air, the scenery, discovering something new, connecting with nature and reminding myself what my body can do. Nature doesn’t care what color your skin is, how much you weigh, what clothes you wear, your gender identity, your sexual orientation or your past experience. Nature takes you as you are in the moment and I find peace in that truth.

Over the years my bucket list has filled up with both activities I’ve completed, and ones still left to try. I’m always adding new things and I hope I never get to the end of the list because I always want to have something to look forward to. I believe that experiences and memories are the most valuable items I can collect. Whether it’s trying a new hobby, like the fact that I went mountain biking for the first time this past October or planning to tackle a major challenge like climbing Whitney in 2021, I love the excitement of learning something new and figuring out how I’m going to accomplish it. It’s never too late and you’re never too old to try something new or different.

I believe that we should each feel free to pursue the activities we want and not feel pressured to do (or not do) something just because others are doing it. You get to define what an adventure means to you. Whatever brings you joy, and happiness is what you should be empowered to pursue. Some things I’ve tried once and will never do again…like parasailing because I almost died! Others I’ve tried and they turned into a new hobby, like when I took the motorcycle safety course simply to know how to ride and I ended up buying a bike. We can do and be whatever we want!

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When I’m not out galavanting around the world in search of unique experiences, I run my own company, Girls Fight Back. Now, if you want to talk about a challenge, try purchasing a company during a pandemic when your entire business model of live events has to be immediately shifted to an unfamiliar online format because the whole world is shut down and quarantined. If you had told me 5 years ago that I was a going to be a business owner I would never have believed you. However, taking over Girls Fight Back was my calling and the best decision I could have made. I am incredibly passionate about teaching violence prevention, personal safety and self-defense to women and people of all genders worldwide. I get to speak internationally to groups of all sizes and demographics and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I believe that when we are empowered to live our lives freely and confidently, there is no limit to what we can do.

I hope that my experiences and stories will inspire others to go after what they want and to not let someone else’s fears, stereotypes, judgements or opinions stop them from doing the things they love and enjoy. I want to be a role model for girls and young women so they can see that you don’t have to limit yourself to what other people want or expect you to be. Sometimes I’m the only Black woman out on the trails, on the dive boat, on the waves, in the arena, on the slopes or walking through a new city in another country. I’ve gotten the looks from people wondering if I’m lost or considering if I belong there. I belong wherever I want to be, and I hold my head up high as I launch into the things I’m passionate about without looking back. The world is full of so much to see and experience and I want take part in as much as I can. It’s my Time To Fly.

PC: Erik Umphrey
PC: Erik Umphrey

Nicole is seen here wearing the new TenNine Hike GTX. Connect with Nicole on Instagram (@adventuresofnik, @girlsfightback, @studentsfightback), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and find more about Outdoor Defense on YouTube and IGTV.

The Running Industry Diversity Coalition Is Making Strides Towards Equality

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Running is a great equalizer. We all have different strides, but the run is a journey we all can start. However, there are still communities that are underrepresented by the running industry. Working to change this is the Running Industry Diversity Coalition (RIDC), a team of Black, Indigenous, and people of color from running brands, retailers, and runner communities across the U.S. The coalition’s goal is to make sure people of color are represented in ownership and leadership positions; there’s accountability; opportunities for conversation; education through diversity, equity, inclusion, naming systems of racism, and anti-racist training. 

To this end, they’re hosting a series of virtual conversations, training, and education sessions. The first conversation on race and running will take place Wednesday, Oct. 28th, from 4-5 p.m. EDT. Panelists will delve into practical ways to have uncomfortable conversations about race and move towards action. 

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Verna Volker, from the Navajo Nation is a founding member of RIDC. In July she commented on RIDC advisor and Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge co-founder, Teresa Baker’s Diversity Pledge statement on Instagram. “I would love to do this with the running industry,” Volker said. Volker’s involvement with RIDC bolsters her work to amplify Indigenous runners. “Native people in the United States are less than 2% of the population, so when you look at the running industry, the percentage is really small. That’s why I push for more representation,” said Volker, who is the founder of Native Women Running (NWR), an Instagram (@native_women_running) account with 14k mighty followers highlighting the achievements of Indigenous women runners from around the world.

“I always tell the women, this is your land run on it,” Volker said when discussing the brand ethos.“Being an Indigenous woman, we talk about our Indigenous people and how we are resilient. I always knew this, but I don’t think I tapped into that until I ran an ultramarathon,” she continues. With 20 races and two ultramarathons under her belt, the mission of her miles does not end here.

When she is not running, she’s training the minds of second graders in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband and four children. HOKA ONE ONE spoke to Volker about the journey of running, empowering Indigenous runners through NWR, and what pushing for a more inclusive running industry looks like.

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HOKA ONE ONE: When did you first tap into your athleticism and start running?  

Verna Volker: I’ve always been an athlete. In highschool I played basketball and volleyball. I remember hating the running part like sprints when the coach would say run like 20 laps around the court.. After that I started running on and off in my life, but it was never anything that I felt passionate about. In 2007, I ran this little race when we lived in a small town in Nebraska. It was like 2.1 miles. I remember sharing this photo on Instagram where I looked like I was in so much pain. I remember it being really hard.

A year later we moved to Minneapolis. I remember that being probably the heaviest I’ve ever been. I was around 200 pounds. I knew that I needed to work on losing weight and I think it was just a lot of stress. I had a new baby, a preschooler, and a new job. In Minneapolis, we have such great parks and lakes where you can run around. I started running just to get out of the house. In August of 2009, I thought well let me run my first half marathon.

I had no idea about running, personal records, training plans, ect. I’m over here like, well let me just run this race. I remember I was so heavy at the time, but I completed the race. I thought it was like the best thing ever. I was so happy. That’s when I think I got hooked.

HOKA: When you first started running were you part of a run crew? 

Volker: I was very intimidated. Here in the Twin Cities area, there are a lot of running groups, but there was this intimidation of “oh I can’t compete” or “oh I’m not fast enough.” There was a fear that I wouldn’t fit in. So I’ve spent a lot of time alone on the trails. 

HOKA: How did Native Women Running grow into what it is today? 

Volker: I noticed people were sharing their running on Instagram like, “Hey I ran 5.5 miles today” and they would post running selfies. So I started doing that and started growing a following. I noticed that even when I started running I would go to bookstores and look at running magazines, they always had that same type of runner, fit, blond, and young. That to me was not realistic. 

Where are people who look like me? Or haven’t been running that long? I started Native Women Running to bring visibility and representation to Native women runners from around the world. NWR also raises awareness around missing and murdered indigenous women, an issue that impacts Native women 10 times more than the national adversage, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. I think as Indigenous women, we can feel like we have a lot against us, but I believe running has become a way for us to heal.

I also started it because in the running world, in the running industry highlighting Native runners was very far and few between. In Native culture, there are a lot of Natives who started running very young. Running is a part of our culture.

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HOKA: Can you explain why running is such an integral part of Native culture? 

Volker: In Navajo culture, there is the belief that you wake up early and you run to the east to greet the creator, to say your prayers, and connect to nature. I never realized what it meant until I found running. It sort of makes sense why I really enjoy morning runs. I’ve always been an early morning runner, like 5 a.m. It helps you start your day, which makes sense. 

I know a Navajo brother that ran in his moccasins in the Boston Marathon, that’s pretty amazing. He is just a reminder of how immersive the culture is to running.

HOKA: What do you think the steps are to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive running industry? 

Volker: I think the first step is understanding where we come from, our history apart from stereotypes, inviting us to be a part of boards, and the hiring process at companies.  It means a lot to me when organizations invite me  to share my perspective to learn about Native culture. I think this is certainly a start. 

RIDC will kick off the first in a series of virtual conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the running industry on Wednesday, Oct. 28th from 4-5pm EDT. Registration Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-talk-about-talking-about-race-tickets-124687366269 

Written by Priscilla Ward

Running to Get Your Mind Right with Sophia Short

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I’m Sophia Short – I work as a social media strategist during the day and write and teach yoga on the side.

I started running at a pretty early age – I’m about a year younger than my older brother and he took an interest in running in elementary school so of course I followed suit. Throughout high school, I ran on my school’s cross-country team (hey, it was a sport you didn’t have to try out for!) and completed a marathon my senior year of high school. When my freshman year of college hit, I had a pretty big swing of depression and as a result took a break from running for over a year (more on mental health later!). I started running consistently again when I began working full time and didn’t want to take the subway home every day from work in New York. From there, I moved to LA and the weather is pretty great to get out for runs in the mornings, so running is once again a piece of my life.

SSUphill1000I run about three mornings a week around my neighborhood in Los Angeles (it’s horrifying I do claim to be a morning person) and take walks after work a couple of nights too in my HOKAs. I like running in particular because it can slow down my mind especially when life is busy. With so much going on just in a regular day, all of your thoughts – especially creative ones – can feel like they’re orbiting around in random directions in your brain. Going on a run forces my thoughts to line up, so they enter my mind one at a time. I also enjoy running because I can’t really look at my phone (I’ve face planted a couple of times as result from trying) and that’s pretty rare for me working and side hustling in social media.

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Besides helping sort through creative ideas and settle my mind, a run does a lot to boost my mental health. As someone who has a history of anxiety and depression, having a toolkit of things that help me feel my best is important to me. Exercise is a big tool for me, and having movement be part of my morning routine helps start the day on a clearer note. If I’m feeling anxious, a repetitive activity like walking or running can help settle my mind, but if I’m feeling down, something more high intensity can help give me a jolt. I love my Clifton for runs and the Bondi for walking or a HIIT workout. I do want to note that exercise is a tool, and won’t fix everything, but it has helped for me.

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Running sometimes gets the label of not being fun. Since I’m usually not running for time, something that I’ve started doing is taking photos on my run of things I find interesting. Sometimes this is the sunrise and other times it’s something quirky like a hand painted Stranger Things trashcan in the neighborhood. I think running (or walking) can give you a greater appreciation for where you live.

Sophia is featured wearing the Clifton 7.