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Exactly What To Wear For Your Ultimate Fall Marathon

How do you dress to run a long race when it may be cold, warm, or a mix?

What to wear for a Fall Marathon!

What you should wear on race day if you are running a marathon in the Fall can vary a lot, depending on the weather that day.

It also can depend on YOU! Do you feel you “run hotter”? Or do you feel that you can’t warm up when others barely feel cool? 

Temperatures in the fall can vary greatly from 40 to the low 50s (with outliers high and low). These temps tend to be the best physiologically for marathon running, because your body doesn’t have as many issues with staying warm or trying to cool. So, planning for layers can be good so that you can be warm at the start but peel things off as you start to warm up while ticking off the miles.

A rule of thumb is to dress for running like it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it is.

However, your start line experience may involve a long walk or bus ride, waiting in a corral, or otherwise standing around in cooler weather. So, you may want to bring a large garbage bag that you can shed at the beginning of the race, or a long-sleeved shirt that you can toss to the side (many races donate them) just before you start running.

That way you are layering and staying warm in the beginning, but not having to carry an extra layer the entire race or have it wrapped around your waist after the first few miles, which can be cumbersome.

Be sure to wear clothes you have successfully practiced wearing in training.

That cute shirt you bought at the expo may not be so cute when it’s chafing you at mile 15.

You can even practice with the garbage bag or temporary shirt you wear at the beginning, so that you know you can remove it easily.

Here are some other tips to include in your kit for race day:

  • As you can still experience strong sun even in the fall, especially if your race is at a higher elevation, don’t forget your sunglasses. Again, make sure you have practiced with these in training, so you know they don’t fog up when it’s cooler (example: Smith Reverb).
  • Sports bra for women, or an anti-chafing nipple covering for men, such as band-aids or an anti-chafing lubricant (example: Body-glide).
  • Non-chafing underwear if you prefer wearing it / your outfit requires it (example: Runderwear).
  • Running shoes you’ve worn before, which still have life/cushioning left in them.
  • Wicking running hat or a visor if it’s warmer, or a wicking beanie or lightweight headband with ear covers if it’s cool.
  • Wicking tank top or technical t-shirt if it’s warmer, or a long-sleeved top if it’s cool. A full or half zip shirt can act like a thermostat, so you can zip or unzip it as you need as you warm up or start running into or away from the wind. Some like a tighter-fitting shirt if it’s windy, so you have less wind resistance than a baggier shirt.
  • Running shorts if it’s warmer, Capris for in-between weather, running tights or pants if it’s cooler, can be fleece-lined if it’s downright cold!
  • Running socks, shorter if warmer, taller, and possibly Smartwool if it’s cooler, especially if it’s raining. Wool can keep your feet warm, even when wet.
  • Running gloves if it’s cool, or mittens if it’s cold.
  • If it’s very cold or even if it’s cool and raining, which can increase your chill considerably like in Boston 2018 – consider a running vest or a jacket. Another option can be running arm warmers that you can remove if it stops raining or warms up.
  • Running phone case or running belt, and if listening to music: charged, wireless earphones or open-ear bone conduction type headphones, so you can still be aware of your surroundings during the race.
  • Some like to carry a copy of their ID with their running belt.
  • Any hydration or fueling belts you may need to hold your race nutrition.
  • GPS running watch and heart rate monitor if you use one.
  • Extra pins for your race bib and/or a race belt to attach it to.
  • Any type of hair band or tie you may need.

Post-race, it can be nice to have a change of clothes, especially if you drove to the race location, and a towel to dry yourself off.

Some people like something quick to pull on over their race clothes, like a sweatshirt/pants, and then another change of clothes if they are showering nearby the race site before taking off. A change of socks and shoes can be handy you expect it to be rainy, then you are not wearing wet socks and shoes all the way home or to the hotel.

Many races have drop bags so you can pick these up after the race. You can also include any specific post-race recovery nutrition you may require, and if flying out immediately after the race, snacks for the way back home.

What if I am running a half-marathon? Should my clothing and accessory choices change at all? 

A half marathon runner won’t be out as long as a full marathon. Sometimes in the fall the difference in temperature or other weather conditions between the start of the race and finish can vary dramatically in a marathon, but due to the shorter timeframe of a half marathon, this difference may not be as dramatic. 

And, depending on a person’s goal for the half-marathon (if they want to get a PR versus running it as a training run) their pace may also be faster than a marathon. So, some would lean toward dressing slightly cooler than for a full marathon, and things like arm-warmers may not be needed. 

If someone is running at an easier pace/as a training run for say a marathon, their clothing choices may not be that different.

How should my clothing and accessory choices change during warm-weather trail races? Cold weather?

For a trail race the clothing would be similar but wearing trail-specific shoes instead of road running shoes. Some people like taller socks for trails, especially if the trails are more rugged and have more brush/vine on them, so that their legs don’t get scratched. 

Some also prefer jackets that have venting so that if they sweat, air can pass in and out of the garment during the trek. A trail marathon can take longer than a road marathon due to differences in elevation and terrain, so if the trail race duration is very long, layers again would be key, and keeping temperature-appropriate gear at each aid station. 

Some opt for a backpack-style hydration pack in a trail race, which can also carry food and gear. Trail races can be very hilly and again layers can be key for cooling off on difficult, long climbs, and warming back up on summits or on longer downhill descents, or in strong winds. Sometimes the top of a mountain can also have dramatically different conditions that at the base. 

This can also be true of trail races that cross between day and night. So, you may need to be prepared for BOTH warm and cool weather on race day. Again, layers can be key here. Other gear you may need might be a headlamp, compass and map if required.

Well, there you have it! Questions? I’m happy to help you – click here to ask me!

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