From Summer Humidity to Fall Winds: Top Tips on How to Dress Right on Race Day
“In a New York minute, everything can change.” For New York City-based runners training for the five borough block party on Sunday, November 4, they are all too aware of that famous lyric. When training begins for the TCS New York City Marathon, it’s early summer and the temperatures—and humidity—continue to soar, both into the 90s during the latter parts of July and early August.
But just as runners get used to heavy spells of humidity, everything can change—in seemingly a New York minute—as temperatures suddenly dip with the arrival of fall weather. With it brings new challenges as marathoners, from New York and elsewhere, suddenly have a dilemma: what to wear on race day after training in hot temperatures for months?
Our expert team of bloggers give their key tips on how to prepare for race day—both in the start village and on the course.
Fall Temperatures Bring Fall Winds
Anyone that ran the TCS New York City Marathon in 2014, they certainly remember it—the year of the wind!
Sure, it was a little cold, but mostly it was just so darn windy, particularly getting up and over the Verrazzano Bridge. I brought a pair of gloves and a hat to wear at the start, expecting to ditch them before I started running, but I kept them on for the first few miles of the race, and was glad I did.
The beauty of being able to bring an approved start village bag to the start is that you can stuff it with things you “might” want or need. I highly recommend bringing a variety of layers and things such as light gloves. If you want to run with them, you can. If you decide otherwise and want to check them with your bag (if you’ve selected bag check, that is), then great. And if you want to wear them in your corral and then ditch them, even better: New York Road Runners donates all those discarded items to charity.
Prepare to go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Pay attention to the race day weather forecast and prepare a few clothing options, from the optimal to the worst-case scenario.
Pre race, being in a different environment outside your comfort zone in Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, can be stressful. So don’t add to it by buying clothes for adverse weather that you’ve not worn in training. Leading up the race, I do my long runs in different clothing options (optimal to the worst case) so I can work out what does and doesn’t work. Subconsciously, this makes me feel more prepared before the marathon, particularly for weather changes.
Finally, think about the clothes you will wear prior to starting the marathon that you are happy to dispose of and donate. Being cold burns energy you need for the race so aim to stay warm and dry.
From Chilled Chocolate Milks to Chilly Mornings
When training in the New York heat, I tried to be a good runner and carried a water bottle, but I didn’t like carrying the handheld water bottle or having a water belt attached to me. So I ran in parks such as Central Park, where I had access to water fountain on long runs. I also stopped in bodegas to get water and chocolate milk during long summer runs around the city.
For race day, I brought an extra layer of old clothes to wear at the start and discarded them right before the race. This was great for keeping warm on what turned out to be a very windy morning at the TCS New York City Marathon.
Extra Layers on Top of Your Normal Race Outfit
Training for a marathon in a city like New York City means heat and humidity. Sometimes, it meant rain and wind. Whatever mother nature throws at you, as a runner you have to embrace it. There is no way around it. Marathon training means rain or sun.
Once race day comes it’s fall, almost winter in NYC, and I honestly enjoy the colder temperatures. On race day my outfit won’t change much this year compared to what I wore in training: shorts, a race singlet, and I will add sleeves, a hat, and some old gloves that I can throw away after the Verrazzano Bridge.
Before the race I’m wearing old sweatpants and a sweater, as well, which I will take off before heading into the corrals. So even though there is a change in temperature, my actual race outfit is still pretty similar to what I was training with before. Remember: nothing new on race day!
This is Not the Time to Try Anything New!
Bring layers! It’s super important to plan for what you’ll wear during the race but, on top of that, it’s very important to plan for what you’ll wear in the start village—and potentially for the first few miles of the course while you’re warming up. I generally bring “throw away clothes” that I wear while I wait in the village and gradually remove the items as I warm up on the course. As Ali Feller said earlier, a great feature is that NYRR collects those clothes and donates them.
Regarding what to wear on the course—something comfortable and that you’ve run in before! As others will repeat in this piece, this is not the time to try out a new race kit that you purchased and have never run any miles in; this applies to everything down to your sneakers.
As the saying goes, nothing new on race day! Finally, if you have a friend who can meet you along the course at some point, it gives you the opportunity to grab another item of clothing or unload a piece of clothing. I have a great memory of throwing my gloves to a friend in Brooklyn when I realized I had warmed up!
Bring More Than You Anticipate Using
Training during the summer can be difficult and frustrating as it's often hard to see or feel gains you are making as the weeks progress due to the heat and humidity. My favorite runs have always been on the first few cool, crisp fall mornings where you run at the same effort but look down and see paces considerably faster than you have seen all summer. Those are the runs where you can finally see the progress you made!
Regardless of the weather on race day, I'd recommend to bring more than you anticipate you will need in the start village. You will be sitting or standing for several hours and it's important to conserve every bit of energy you can—you do not want your body to be working overtime to keep you warm. I often wear several layers of warm clothes, as well as a blanket. And you can always shed those layers while you wait if you are warm.
All four times I've run New York City, there has been a headwind for the first 19-20 miles of the race. As with any race, the best thing you can do is work with the runners around you and/or find runners you can tuck in behind to help shield some of that wind.
This may be difficult in the early miles of the race as paces fluctuate a bit but as you get further into the race, the runners around you are often moving at similar paces and will be good allies as the miles progress.
Keep Your Feet Dry
Summers in Toronto, where I live, are often hot and humid, which creates its own set of challenges for marathon training. However, that all changes by the time you’re ready to toe the line and cooler temps start rolling in.
You will be waiting outdoors for several hours in the start village, so bring additional layers (such as sweatpants and sweaters) to keep you warm. Bring an extra throw-away poncho or garbage bag to the start, even if it's not raining, the ground could be wet and you'll be thankful to have something dry to sit on. If it is raining, try to bring an extra pair of shoes or cover your shoes in plastic bags to avoid starting with wet or muddy shoes.
I often race in shorts and a short sleeve shirt or singlet when it’s cold and I may opt for arm sleeves because I can always roll them down when I warm up!
Prepare for the Worst
While the weather is unpredictable for the race, no matter how many times you check it leading up to the big dance, I’ve been able to wear shorts and short sleeve tech shirt every year—but I always plan for the worst.
I’ll usually go to a discount store before the race and for $30 get sweat pants and a zipped/hooded sweatshirt. The hood offers extra warmth or rain protection and the fact that it’s zippered makes it easier to remove while I’m running.
My secret weapon is to buy a pack of long athletic/tube socks. You know, the white ones with stripes that you used to wear as a kid up to your knee (if you’re the same age as me that is). Take one pair, cut off the toes and voilà! You have a pair of arm warmers that you won’t worry about throwing away during the race. Make sure when you put them on that you pull the elasticized opening on first, with the elastic at the top of your arm they won’t slide down.
Hot or Cold—Be Prepared
I’ve had two very different race village experiences. At the start of my first TCS NYC Marathon in 2013, it was freezing! I had a fleece and long trousers over my running gear, a hat, gloves, scarf and hand warmers in my shoes and gloves!
I even started the race with my fleece still on, it was so cold (I had cut it down the front so that I could easily take it off). I tend to overheat when I run, so once I got going, wearing a sleeveless top and shorts was perfect! After my first experience, I turned up at the race village in 2016 ready to freeze, but ended up not needing any of my extra layers, it was so warm!
What’s your top tip for preparing your race-day outfit? Share it, using the hashtag #MovedMe, on social media. And for a look at what you can and cannot bring to the start village in Staten Island, click here!