Cold weather running. No, your lungs won’t freeze…

icySince posting about cold weather running a couple of weeks ago, emails have flooded in (well OK, I’ve had two of them) from runners telling me that sub-zero running can actually make your lungs freeze.

Naturally, this was not welcome news to someone who gets his biggest kicks playing Icelandic roulette, a game of my own devising, which involves running along the beach wondering when I’ll next stray onto a stretch of completely smooth and invisible ice on top of the sand. It’s a tremendous game BTW. And if I ever get someone to video me in the act, the resulting YouTube video will doubtless be called ‘Bambi Goes to Casualty.’ But I digress…

Returning to the subject in hand, these emails certainly gave me pause for thought. Can sub-zero air really freeze your lungs? Time then, for a little on-line research, which brought both good news and bad news.

First the good news: medical opinion and several scientific studies have definitively proven that in temperatures as low as -50 Celsius, the human body retains the ability to warm air on its way to the lungs, ensuring that they won’t freeze. The exception to this rule, naturally, is that when you die of exposure, your lungs will indeed freeze. But only when you’ve been dead for a few hours, so that’s probably not your number one worry then.

The bad news though, is that there is a well documented case of a runner in the States who, while testing the theory about cold air freezing the lungs, actually received the first inklings of frostbite in his, well, his, er…well, let’s just say it was in an extremity that most chaps wouldn’t wish to lose anything off the length of and leave it there shall we?

For those of you who are now sitting cross-legged and whistling nervously, I feel duty-bound to relate that the tale had a happy ending. And possibly to also recall that a similar fate befell the late, great David Niven while skiing, when his pride and joy was saved by a swift immersion in a large brandy. No, really. It’s in the second of his autobiographies: ‘Bring on the Empty Horses.’ Which is very nearly as good a read as the first one, ‘The Moon’s a Balloon.’

Gosh, I really do seem to have gone slightly off topic don’t I? So, to get back to the point, no, running in cold air won’t cause your lungs to freeze. But if you find frozen air uncomfortable to run in, why not do what I do, and run with a Buff covering your mouth, which filters out quite a lot of the ice crystals before you can breathe them in.

Anyway, I’d love to stay and blog a bit more, but I really need to get to the thermal underwear section of my local outdoor shop before it closes…

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Good news for runners with colds everywhere…

bowlsEveryone chez nous is still in the grip of the worst cold that we, or indeed anyone else has had, in the history of the world, ever. So, as being prevented from running tends to put me in a tetchy frame of mind, we’ve all been struggling to put a positive spin on the situation and to think of reasons to be cheerful.

Well, obviously, if snot were suddenly to become a marketable commodity, we could corner the market and enjoy wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

Similarly, were the BBC to produce a radio show dedicated to the last days of the Brontes, in all their consumptive glory, we’d be a shoo-in for all of the sound effects required to aurally conjure up a slightly bookish family on the verge of calling for the undertaker.

So, in other words, we’ve really been struggling to find ways of staying positive this week.

And then, earlier this afternoon, my son channel-hopped his way through the welter of property programmes that infest the daytime TV schedules in these parts (which I’ve always assumed were a cute ploy on the part of the authorities to reduce the number of ‘duvet days’ taken by the working masses) and alighted on quite the dullest spectacle I ever hope to witness in my lifetime.

It was a ‘sporting’ ‘event’ called the World Indoor Bowls Championship. And yes, the sarcastic inverted commas have treated both of those words individually with very good reason.

Grown men were actually being filmed by the BBC, playing bowls, on a blue carpet, while other people watched intently. Yes! Really! There was even a hushed commentary, where technical-sounding phrases like ‘getting good draw off the shag-pile’ were bandied around by breathless pundits.

I know what you’re thinking: those old Monty Python repeats, they get everywhere. But no. What little breath as my congested lungs are still able to draw was taken away as I realised that this wasn’t a clever and well-executed satire, this was actually for real.

‘What kind of people could possibly be watching this on purpose?’ I said. And then I spotted the major sponsor’s logo on the hoarding alongside the blue carpet: Co-op Funeralcare.

So, you’re probably wondering why this is good news if you’re a runner with a cold. And I must admit, it took me a while to see it myself. But the good news is that no matter how bad you’re feeling right now, no matter how many days you are away from running again; if your wardrobe consists largely of shoes with Asics logos and shorts adorned with swooshes and stripes, chances are that you will never, ever, find yourself entering any event sponsored by Co-op Funeralcare.

It may not be much to hang onto, but I’m afraid that in these desperate times, that’s all I’ve got to offer…