Winter running in Salt Lake City

I’m about to start training for half marathon number 5. And of course that means planning out my running schedule. Sometimes this can be complicated by winter weather but in Salt Lake City we have an added complication -> our air quality.

Before I moved here I never really thought about air quality. That is a Beijing problem, right? Well it turns out due to a combination of geography (valley), poor planning (oil refineries in said valley) and bad luck (low sun angle) we have really bad air in winter – mostly January but it can sneak into December and February. So before I plan my weekly running schedule I need to check these:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.41.48

Green is good!

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And yes – these are our typical January highs.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.42.01Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 15.41.37Lucky I’m a scientist, right? The main bummer is that when it’s sunny with no snow – that is when the air is likely to be bad. And by bad I mean – your throat is scratchy and in some cases physicians recommend that you refrain from exercising outside especially if you have any medical conditions that might make you sensitive to pollutants. Storms are great at clearing the air out but that means snow and icy conditions. It’s a Catch-22.

For the last couple of years I’ve been doing low (or no) mileage for January and this is the first year that I’ve done longish runs this month. Luckily, I’ve managed to do all of my weekend runs outside and even snuck in a weekday trail run. This has made me so grateful that my body is cooperating so that I can run and I really appreciate any outside run. Although, I have been using my treadmill runs to catch up with Scandal.

The bad air – or inversion as the locals refer to it – is a constant topic of conversation here in SLC in the winter but I can’t complain too much. If I can make it through January then things settle back to normal – and our air is pretty good for the rest of the year, and our winters are relatively mild (sorry Midwesterners and East coasters). Plus, if we really need to escape the air we can just drive 30 minutes and be at 9000ft enjoying the fresh mountain air!


But on clear days it’s amazing!

16 thoughts on “Winter running in Salt Lake City

  1. It wasn’t until blogs like yours and Hungry Runner Girl that I realized that Salt Lake City had an air quality problem! I always though of Utah as having clean, fresh air but I’ve seen some photos taken when there’s an inversion and holy crap! My lungs were angry just looking at it!

    • You know most of the year that stereotype is true – and most Utahns love the outdoors so we complain all winter long about our air! I even bought a mask although I’m not convinced they protect that well but at least I look terrifying.

  2. I had no idea you had air quality issues there! There are places in BC that are similar due to geography and industry. Up here air pollution is not an issue unless we get fires in the summer. Can’t run in smoke, I’ve tried, it feels horrible.

  3. Wow, I had NO CLUE that you guys had that issue in SLC! Crazy!! Also something that I don’t have to think about here as a factor that could affect my run. That sure does make things tough (as if training for any race isn’t already tough enough), but it’s so good that you are aware of it!

    • I had no idea until I moved here either. I’ve lived near the coast in both Ireland and Scotland and it’s something I never had to think about. Here they tell you the air quality with the local news and weather!

  4. I had no idea that SLC had such air quality issues. How sad is that?! I picture it as such a clean and pristine area. What a bummer and so frustrating that you have to take that into account with your training. Fortunately, spring is just around the corner….or at least I keep telling myself that.

    • Yes! The days are definitely longer and in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal air quality. During the Olympics they had a huge storm so everything looked great and you know how much I love living here the other 10ish months of the year!

  5. Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor says:

    Count me in the chorus of people who had no idea this was an issue in SLC! That’s a such a pain, sorry you have to deal with that. I will remember this next time I’m tempted to complain about a few patches of ice on the sidewalks here!

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