There is no denying that weather conditions have changed in recent years, and this also affects running: today running in shorts in the middle of winter is almost normal.
Individual perceptions are subjective, but temperatures are objective data and have increased in recent years.
It is important to know the difference between daily weather and weather on a larger time scale: the climate is changing rapidly, and we runners are witnessing it.
Years ago using long pants for running in winter was the norm, at least in the middle months, say December through February. We are now in the middle of the winter, and I wore them twice: once in the city and once in the mountains. The most worrying thing is that I actually didn’t need them, especially on the mountains. And it was early January.
We runners can be considered excellent environmental thermometers and not only that, we are also endowed with a remarkable historical memory because we always repeat the same things years apart, in the same periods. For us, especially if we’ve been running for many years, it’s easy to remember how we did it 10 years ago, with what clothing, with what shoes (especially with what times, for the careful/obsessed).
In other words: we can make comparisons.
Personal experience does not count
It is true: what we feel through our experience has no scientific value and may be true for us but not for others. In short, we may be among the 0.5 percent (I say a random percentage) of runners who have developed a particular resistance to cold and mistake it for rising temperatures.
Okay, it could be. Except that perceptions are individual but temperatures are objective data, and this year-and at least in the last 3 or 4 before that-temperatures have actually risen. The fact that you can run in short pants year-round is no longer an extravagance: it is just understandable. Which doesn’t make it any less disturbing, at least for those with some memory who remember very well that years ago in January (not that many years ago) they would never have dreamed of running with bare legs.
Weather and climate
I would like to point out: these words are not meant to depose either for or against the climate change thesis. They are just a testimony that something has changed. For many for the better, you will say: we can save money on apparel and always use summer or mid-season clothing, we can live never being cold. True, but let us not forget that this is only one of the perceived effects in specific places (near us) of something that originates much further away physically and in time. What we experience every day is in fact the weather, originating from something much larger that is climate. The difference is that the former is what we experience every day (heat, cold, sun, wind, rain, snow) while the latter has a much larger time scale and involves the entire system composed of the oceans, biosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, and hydrosphere and how these interact with each other.
Since you’ve been running you’ve surely had a day or even a week when it should have been very cold and instead, unexpectedly, the temperature was pleasant. What is more unlikely to have happened to you, however, is for it to happen for months on end.
It is somewhat as if the scale of weather phenomena has reversed: what were once unusual phenomena within homogeneous periods have become the norm, and vice versa. Once it was peculiar that there were some very mild days in the middle of winter, now it is peculiar that those same days are very cold.
As mentioned above, we do not have the expertise to speak as climatologists (we are not) however, we can observe what we see. And record it.
It can be argued that what we observe may be true in the place where we live and run. After all, it is circumscribed and certainly does not describe the whole national or European climate. Very true, but it is also true that in the days when I realized this I was running in short pants in my city, without gloves and hat in the mountains, and a friend of mine sent me a video of his daughter swimming in Sardinia. It was Jan. 4.
It will be an isolated case, the climate has always changed, and we don’t want to be alarmists. Running without cracking from the cold has its advantages after all (somewhat less crashing from heat in summer but it is inevitable to pay for these mild winters with increasingly hallucinating summers). Climatologists are the first to argue that climate is not a static system: it has always changed and will always do. What they find most disturbing is that he is doing it so quickly. We’re all noticing that a little bit, aren’t we?
We are not alarmists: we notice. And we runners notice it more consistently and accurately.