2012 Renewal — How to dress for weather and temperature when running and walking long distance

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Tale of the Tape Through Week Twelve

Weight:  January 1 = 189, March 23 = 177.0  12 weeks,  loss of 12.0 lbs.  At target 1 lb per week pace.

Mileage: Week 12 run/walk miles: 46.5.  Avg weekly mileage: 36.9.  Above target min of 35 mi/wk.

If you make good apparel decisions, you can stay comfortable on your long days

I just did a 20 mile long run as I get ready for my April 22 marathon.  Conditions at dawn were low 50s, drizzle, and a breeze.  I looked around at some of my companion runners, and they were wearing a wide variety of things — from shorts and a simple t-shirt, to full tights and a jacket.  Above 60 degrees it is easy — shorts and a shirt.  But below that, and in varying conditions, there are three key things to remember when choosing what to wear for any run & walk:

  • Base (innermost) layer
  • Shell (outermost) layer
  • The 20 degree rule

Base (innermost) layer

In nearly all cases when you wear multiple layers, the base layer will tend to be snugger fitting and be made of performance, moisture wicking fabric.  It will keep your skin drier by taking the sweat off your skin and moving to the next layer (or outside for evaporation), and it will provide an insulation layer for temperature regulation.  At longer distances, pay particular attention to seams and other potential abrasion points and chafing — you may want to experiment with anti-chafe products like Body Glide.   If the base layer is a bit rough, you will sure know it when you hit that nice hot soapy shower afterwards…

Shell (outermost) layer

If you have layers, make sure the outermost is consistent with the weather elements.  If it will be rainy, your shell should help repel the water.  Note that rarely should this layer be ‘waterproof’, since that implies sealed seams with no ability to vent out perspiration moisture.  Moisture resistance is the better characteristic. More commonly this would be something like a hyper-light jacket, wind-shirt, or maybe a tyvek zipup.  Keeping this layer as light at possible lets you put it on / take it off as you exercise and exertion level and external temps vary.  They are perfect to tie around your waist to keep them handy.  Note that if is is clear with no rain, then the shell layer can be most anything — even a cotton tshirt.  An extra tip:  if sunny, choose your shell color wisely.  A black shell will warm you much more than a white one.

The 20 degree rule

For years I have dressed for my running by the 20 degree rule.  This rule suggests the amount and type of clothing needed for a medium exertion run.  Simply put, dress for your run as if you were planning a sedentary outside activity (like standing/sitting and watching a football game) with the same conditions plus 20 degrees.

If it is 58 sunny and calm, try shorts and a t-shirt — just like you would watching a game at 78 sunny and calm.

If 40 cloudy with a stiff wind, try light long pants, shortsleeve base layer, long-sleeve cotton shirt, and hyper-light jacket-like shell — similar to your game attire 20 degrees warmer, keeping the other factors.  I would wear a hat, and might start with light gloves.  If the wind dies down, the shell and the gloves come off.

If 25 partly cloudy with a light breeze, try heavier pants/tights, base layer on top, plus 2 medium weight layers.  Or if you have a heavier shell layer, maybe like a fleece, then that might suffice with one or 2 light layers underneath.  Good gloves, stocking hat, and maybe a neck/face cover will be needed, too.

If a low exertion activity, like easy jog or a medium walk, the rule might be flexed to 10 degrees.  For high exertion, like running a race for time, it might be more like 30 degrees.  And in all cases, you will need the 1st mile to get warmed up — so expect to be a bit chilly for the starting few minutes.  If having to wait around before starting — like at a race — have a disposable extra outer layer, such as an old stained race-shirt, a thrift store set of pajamas (get creative!!), or a plastic trash bag with cut-out holes for head and arms (my personal favorite).

So — what did I wind up wearing for my weekend 20 miler described above?  Shorts, a performance t-shirt baselayer, and a windshirt shell.  It was perfect.  I had no upper body abrasion due to my base layer (try them out at lower mile runs first).  The shell kept a lot of the drizzle off me and kept the chilly wind from cutting through me.  I thought I was going to tie it off around my waist earlier, but the shell stayed on until the last stretch home.

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