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This -39 C weather bringing you down and chilling you to the bone? Try running in it. No, seriously.

It works for Dave de Lugt, who on Wednesday ran 11 km when the mercury dropped to -39 C, which felt like -48 C when factoring in the wind chill. He’s entering his second winter of running after he took up the sport 18 months ago.

With his husky dog Sam by his side, de Lugt ran through the city, up Old Airport Road, along Highway 3 and back into town.

Dave de Lugt and his husky Sam run through Somba K’e Park during their 11 km run on Wednesday when it was -39 C. Blair McBride/NNSL photo

“It feels just like normal running but with more layers,” he said. “I move a bit slower. It takes longer for my muscles to warm up but it’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be.”

For runs in weather as cold as this week, his running attire comprises sets of three layers. On top he wears a wicking layer of merino wool against his skin, a polar fleece warming layer and a windbreaker.

On his legs he wears a merino layer, fleece running tights and running pants. He wears one pair of mitts. On his head he sports a fleece and Gore-tex tuque and on his feet just one pair of socks and running shoes.

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Wearing more than one pair of socks for winter runs doesn’t work for him.

“I never liked it,” he said. “For the first few kilometres my feet are cold so I make sure I’m wiggling my toes. But if I start the run with cold feet I find they’ll stay cold, so I warm them up before I go.”

His setup might sound minimal in the face of brutal conditions, but it held up for him when he did his longest winter run yet of 21 km on Dec. 21, 2019. The temperature that day was -25 C, according to Environment Canada data.

“I did it by myself. I trained for it as though it was a race. I’ve never shivered in the winter,” he said nonchalantly.

Frostbite is a potential danger since de Lugt doesn’t wear a mask or balaclava, but it hasn’t been a problem for him yet.

“I work for Arctic Response. We do safety training (and) Arctic survival programs in the winter. I’m pretty familiar with frost bite. I’m running a risk (but) I’ve found that once I’m moving I stay quite warm. Throughout the run I’ll take my hand out of my mitt and check my face.

“Today I did feel a spot on my cheek that was getting cold when I started to head back into the wind, so I pulled my neck warmer over my cheek to let my breath warm it up. All last winter I was running in low temperatures and maybe it’s the warm air I’m exhaling that is generating a bit of a pocket around my face.”

The bright mid-day sky on Wednesday gave him a chance to soak up some of the minimal sun at this time of year, while also giving his dog some needed exercise at the same time.

For people considering following in de Lugt’s quick-footed tracks in the snow, he advises Yellowknifers to just go for it and layer up appropriately.

“It’s a lot of fun. I understand the barriers but anybody can do it. You don’t need any fancy gear. You can do it in a cheap pair of rain pants and cotton pants. It wouldn’t be perfect but you can make it work.”

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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  1. Fantastic article David! Making us proud, back home in Ontario! Love, Aunt Susan! X O X O LOL(Lots of Love!)