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Now that's cold!

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By Peter Hadzipetros

Newsworld's been running a lot of weather video lately – and I've been catching the occasional shot of bundled-up folk expounding on how cold it is in western Canada these days.

A brutal cold snap has gripped the Prairies and isn't expected to move on before Christmas.

Wind chills have been regularly dipping below –40C. Regina's expected to be basking under a relatively balmy -8 by Boxing Day.

Southern Ontario's been spared most of the nasty stuff, meaning outdoor exercise is still pretty much a walk in the park. Despite that, people continually ask me, "So, do you run in this cold?"

"Yeah, this cold, real cold and even when it's really, really cold."

Dress for the conditions and you'll be fine.

It's what Pushpa Chandra had to do last weekend – dress for the conditions. The naturopathic doctor from Vancouver spent last weekend in Antarctica – running a 100-kilometre ultramarathon. She's the first Canadian to finish the distance down there and only the second woman.

It took her 18 hours 33 minutes and eight seconds to do it. That's a little less than six kilometres an hour in a place that recorded the coldest temperature on the planet: -89 C. At that temperature, steel can shatter.

But – hey – it's summer in Antarctica now so the temperature usually ranges between -10 and -20 – even with 24-hour daylight. However, a good stiff breeze can make that feel a lot colder.

The race organizers suggest you dress in layers, using the following to keep yourself comfy:

  • Upper body – thermal layer, fleece layer and outer windproof shell.
  • Legs – thermal layer and windproof pants (middle fleece layer optional).
  • Hands – pair of gloves and mittens.
  • Feet – two pairs of woollen socks and neoprene to cover toes.
  • Head – balaclava, facemask, hat, neck gaiter, goggles.

Don't look for support from the fans to get you through the tough slogging, unless there's a bunch of penguins rooting you on.

Chandra put in the training for this race, running two to four hours most days – and sometimes putting in 60-kilometre runs. It's not the first hostile climate she's run in. Last December, she completed the Everest Marathon in Nepal, billed as the highest marathon in the world. It starts at an altitude of 5,184 metres (17,000 feet), close to the base camp where people set out to conquer Mount Everest.

Bad weather can be a significant factor there, too.

Too cold to run?

Bah! Cold is just a state of mind – although I'm tempted to take a page from co-worker Lee Hewitt's book. He ran a marathon last weekend, too. In Honolulu.

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About the Author

Peter HadzipetrosPeter Hadzipetros is a producer for the Consumer and Health sites of CBC News Online. Until he got off the couch and got into long distance running a few years ago, he was a net importer of calories.

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