The moment that the calendar flips from August to September, my anticipation for fall weather bubbles over. Fall always has been my favorite running season. Years ago I ran exclusively on the treadmill, until fall weather beckoned me outside and I fell even more in love with running.
However, despite the image of perfectly cool temperatures, clear skies, and calm weather, fall running presents its own set of challenges for running. At least where I’ve lived and ran (Northwest Indiana and now Seattle area), fall means wind, rain, and cooler temperatures. While not as insufferable as the humidity of summer or dangerous as the icy streets of winter, you do need to consider the weather and the type of workout you’ll be doing when deciding what to wear for fall running.
What to Wear for Fall Running
My first half marathon was run in 35-degree temperatures with harsh winds (in the 20-30 mph range for most of the race). The wind will make it feel colder than it actually is outside, so dress appropriately.
Generally, you dress as if it’s 10-20 degrees warmer than it is outside (based on the type of run), but for windy runs you want to dress as if it is the current temperature or even slightly colder.
While wicking layers should be your choice on any run, you especially want to choose these on windy runs. If you sweat at all, if the sweat lingers in the fabric of the clothing it will feel cold against your skin – and that coldness will only be exacerbated by the chill of the wind.
Don’t let the wind keep you inside! Besides dressing well, read this post for how to manage windy runs!
Personal preference varies on this, I advise to dress as if it is warmer outside for runs above approximately 40 degrees. The more clothing you are wearing, the more rain your gear will soak up – and the colder you will feel (not to mention, you’ll feel weighed down!).
I personally like gloves and arm warmers for warmth on rainy runs (combined with a tank top/short sleeve and shorts) so that I can take them off and stash them in my pockets or SPIBelt if I warm up.
For rainy runs in colder weather, a rain jacket specifically designed for running will keep you warm and dry.
As with windy runs, you want to select lightweight, wicking fabrics. Cotton and similar fabrics will soak up the rain and hold onto it, which means your clothes will feel uncomfortable, heavy, and cold and wet against your skin.
Don’t forget footwear! Some running shoes have smoother bottoms and will cause sliding and potential tripping on slick pavement. Choose shoes that have more traction on the soles for better grip on wet ground. If it’s practically monsooning outside or you’re running on a dirt path, don your pair of trail shoes (if you have them) for extra grip.
Many marathons and half marathon occur during September, October, and November. The temperatures can range from 40s to 60s this time of year, with outliers of both abnormally hot and cold.
Unless your race occurs during very cold and windy weather conditions, you want to wear less clothing for the race than you would for a normal run.
Why? The faster you run, the more heat your body generates and the more you sweat. As the name of the event implies, you will be running faster during a race than during a normal training run – so dress appropriately!
For most runners, this means shorts, a tank top or short sleeve shirt, or even a long line sports bra in normal fall temperatures (the same rule applies for intervals or tempo runs in fall). It’s better to be a bit cool than overheat. Overheating can lead to under-hydration or dehydration, increased levels of perceived effort, and likely slowing down as the race progresses.
If you’re chilly at the start of the race, gloves or arm warmers will keep you warm for the first few miles. As you warm up, tuck them in your pockets or waistband or toss them aside (most races donate discarded clothing). Even if the rest of you is cold, warm hands make a huge difference!
You can cool down quickly after a race, as your sweat evaporates and your core temperature lowers. Be sure to pack a sweatshirt in your race bag or have your significant other or friend have one readily available for you.
Of course, you should take into account your own personal preferences on all of these runs! I’m one of those runners who will wear shorts to well below 40 degrees, but you may prefer to feel warmer or colder on your runs.
What are your go-to running outfits for fall running?
Do you prefer to feel warm or cold on your runs?
What’s the worst weather you’ve ever raced in?