Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yes, But Would They Still Jog in Siberia?

Long Beach runners don’t let cold weather stop them

By Joseph Kellard

One day when Larry Moriarty took his routine run along the length of the boardwalk, he crossed paths with just five people — which including motorists on Broadway and a maintenance man picking up garbage. Moriarty recalled that the temperature that day was 8 degrees.

Moriarty is among the Long Beach residents who exercise on the boardwalk all year, undeterred by frigid temperatures and the Atlantic’s piercing winds. What’s more, he is among a handful of runners who hit the wooden slats as early as 5 a.m., from three to six days a week, usually totaling five miles each outing.

“You get warmed up fairly quickly and it really is quite a nice experience because it’s so quiet,” said Moriarty, 40, who dresses in layers, including a balaclava covering his head and face.

A forensic accountant who often travels for his job, Moriarty first laced up running shoes about three years ago to burn some calories and maintain his health. When asked why frigid weather fails to deter him, he matter-of-factly replied, “Why would it?”

Then there are Long Beachers like Nancy Koff. She has run all year long, on and off, since she moved to Long Beach in 1985, and there was a time when she didn’t blink when the cold and snow arrived. But now, at 55, she takes a different approach.

In the summer, Koff and her iPod reach the boardwalk around 8 a.m., and in the winter she has the luxury of starting even later, since she is a family therapist and doesn’t open her Bellmore office until 1 p.m.

“I’m older now and it’s just kind of disgusting and miserable running in the snow and rain,” Koff said. “Even if it’s just a very strong wind I might not go. It just gets a little bit harder to deal with the elements as you get older.”

Depending on how she’s feeling, she generally tries to get in four runs a week, starting at Neptune Boulevard, on the east end of the boardwalk, and running to the west end, at New York Avenue, and back, 4.4 miles in all. When the weather is particularly nasty, Koff will run just half the distance, to around Magnolia Boulevard.

And on the worst days she heads to New York Sports Club on East Park Avenue or Pure Fitness in Island Park, where she works with a personal trainer. But compared with the boardwalk, the gym treadmills are drudgery. “I hate it,” she said. “I’m counting every minute that goes by and the calories I’ve burned. The time really flies when you’re outside, especially on the boardwalk because the scene is so beautiful.”

Part of what pushes Koff to run in the cold is a philosophy, one she imparts to her clients in therapy, that says to get up and move move every day, whether to run, skip rope or just walk.

Having the right gear, especially the right hat and gloves, she said, is key to exercising outside when the mercury heads south.

Katie Sell, an exercise physiologist at Hofstra University and a Long Beach resident, concurs. In cold weather the body directs blood and heat to vital organs such as the brain, heart and liver, Sell explained, so wearing the proper hat, gloves and even socks becomes especially important. Dressing warmly protects runners not only from frostbite, but also from decreased sensory ability, she said.

Sell suggested that cold-weather exercisers like Moriarty and Koff wear materials that “wick” sweat away from the skin, which is especially important in the cold, and that they dress in layers.

“Advanced runners know to wear a long-sleeved shirt and a T-shirt, and then another long-sleeved shirt, while a new runner will put on a T-shirt and a big heavy fleece,” she said. “But you can shed the layers as your body temperature goes up, and also they don’t get damp from sweat so you can put them on afterwards.”

Sell, a native of England, is used to exercising in cold weather, though a bum knee has sidelined her running routine, so she plays tennis in the winter.

She makes sure that she always has water, even in sub-freezing weather, to stay hydrated. “You should bring a bottle of water with you, but not ice-cold water,” Sell said. “You have very delicate tissue in the back of your throat, and in the cold air it needs to be warmed a whole bunch more. Tap water is good.”

While Nat Cooper rides his bike each spring and summer day with his 4-year-old son, he runs on the boardwalk only when it snows. A former amateur bodybuilder on whose knees heavy lifting has taken a toll, Cooper finds that the snow cushions his knees as he runs just a few blocks — usually from Neptune to Monroe Boulevard — and he also
enjoys the scenery.

“There’s something about being out in the crispness and the coldness that I look forward to,” he said. “In the wintertime there’s just something so beautiful about it when there’s that little bit of snow.”

Photo by Arthur Findlay

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