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What To Wear When Running A Marathon – Clothes For All Conditions

Whether it’s your first marathon or your 100th, it’s always helpful to know what you should wear. Marathons can be a challenge to dress for because you’ll be out running for a significant amount of time.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dressing for a marathon, no matter the conditions.

We’ll give you suggested clothes for all types of weather, plus what to wear before and after the race. This will be especially helpful for you if you’re new to the marathon world.

marathon clothing

Cold Weather

If you are running a marathon on a cold day – and here we’re talking 40F or colder – you’ll need some extra layers to keep you warm throughout the race.

Your outfit should include all of the following components:

  • A base layer
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Tights or running pants
  • Socks that go above the ankle
  • Beanie and gloves

Any good cold weather outfit is built on a technical base layer. A good one will wick moisture from your skin, keeping you dry. And in the cold, staying drier means staying warmer. Additionally, if for some reason, it really heats up, you’ll want to have an option of something to wear besides your long-sleeved shirt.

A second layer, long-sleeved shirt is also a must to protect you from the elements. The good news is that if you get warm after running for a while, you can push up your sleeves or take off the long-sleeved shirt entirely. But when it’s cold and early in the morning, keep your arms covered.

Similarly, covering your legs will increase your comfort. Typically, people don’t get as hot on their legs, so you should be safe with tights or running pants. Versions with pockets or a running belt are convenient in case you need to stash your beanie or gloves once you get warm.

While you might not need them the entire time (hence why it might be helpful to have pockets), you definitely want to start off with a beanie and gloves. Make sure that your extremities are covered so that your body heat can go to keeping your core warm.

Finally, get running socks that go above your ankle and don’t leave any skin showing. They don’t need to be knee-high socks – just socks that will cover your ankle from the cold. You might even consider purchasing a compression calf sleeve/sock combo so that you get the benefits of a compression sleeve while covering your ankle.

Mild Temperatures

Most runners will say that temps bewteen 40F and 60F are ideal marathoning weather. So while these options might seem obvious, here’s how to gear up:

  • Shorts or capris
  • A short-sleeved shirt
  • Running cap (if sunny)

Depending on whether you run cold or hot, wear either shorts or capris. Even though I do tend to run a little colder, I almost always run in shorts because I find them more comfortable. Plus, I know that I’ll warm up after I get started. But you need to pick what is best for you.

A short-sleeved shirt should be exactly what you need. It will cover your shoulders and see give your arms some breathing space. You might be a little cold for the first mile, but you’ll warm up fast.

Some runners use arm sleeves for some added warmth. These are easy to take off and store if you get too warm later in the race.

Finally, if it’s sunny, add a running cap and/or sunglasses to help mitigate exposure to the sun over the course of the next few hours.

Hot and Humid

What To Wear When Running A Marathon - Clothes For All Conditions

If it’s hot and humid, you’ll want to wear as little as possible. This will likely be a good outfit for you:

  • A singlet, tank, or lightweight shirt
  • Shorts
  • Running cap (because it’s almost certainly sunny)

If it’s hot and humid, a tank or lightweight shirt is really your only option because you’re going to be sweating quickly. Make sure that your shirt is loose, doesn’t cling, and is anti-wick so that you won’t be running with a sweat-stained shirt stuck to you for several hours.

Hot weather is also the time to bring out the short shorts. Give your legs some breathing room! Longer options will just stick to your legs and be super uncomfortable. Shorts will allow you to fly like the wind!

Finally, a running cap and/or sunglasses are highly recommended. With the sun beating down on you, you’ll need some protection. Just remember that if you put your sunglasses on your head to start your race, they might get wet with perspiration and you might not be able to see clearly later on.

Rain

With rain, considering the temperature might be even more important:

Light/Warm Rain

If the rain is light, or if it is warm, you won’t need anything extra except a running cap to keep the rain out of your eyes. Even if you don’t like hats, I can guarantee you’ll appreciate a running cap if it’s raining.

Cold Rain

When the rain is cold, wear a waterproof jacket. Otherwise, your clothing will get completely soaked through. You might want to look into jackets that pack into themselves because they are useful if the rain stops or if it warms up.

Waterproof gloves are another consideration if it’s cold and rainy. 

Options for All Weather Conditions

Something you’ll want to consider no matter what the weather is a running belt or hydration belt. This will give you the opportunity to bring extra nutrition, a sports drink, and other sundries such as petroleum jelly and your phone.

If you have a running belt, you might not even need to leave anything in a bag to collect after the race. That will alleviate some stress the morning of race day. And it’s always helpful to have additional options for nutrition and hydration.

What to Wear Before the Start

If the weather is good, you won’t need to wear anything extra before the start line. Just take the time to warm up as well as relax before your big race. But if there is rain, an inexpensive poncho (or garbage bag!) will keep you from getting drenched before the race starts.

If the weather is cold, you’ll want some warm-up clothes like a jacket and pants. If you don’t mind throwing them away, you could bring an old sweatshirt and sweatpants. Typically, big marathons have donation bins at the start, so your discarded clothing will be put to good use. Alternatively, you could also leave the clothing with friends or family who came to watch you.

What to Change Into After You Finish

Congratulations! You made it! Now you’ll want to change as soon as possible into comfortable, dry clothing.

Put on some clean socks and change your shoes. I personally have a race celebration outfit that I’ve worn after any race I’ve participated in. You might consider doing the same thing.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it helps to be prepared no matter what condition you’ll be running in for a marathon. Hopefully, we’ve been helpful in giving you some outfit combinations so that you’re prepared for any kind of race day.

And don’t forget the old adage, “Nothing new on race day.” Race day is not the time to experiment with new clothing, nutrition, or hydration, so try out different outfit combinations when you’re training for a marathon so that you’re prepared. Good luck!

The Wired Runner