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.
You can get more tips for running in rainy weather here and here!
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?
My hands are always the first things to FREEZE while the rest of my body is overheated. It’s so strange – I could be wearing gloves and a short sleeved shirt and be perfectly fine. Hand-warmers are a must for me, for any outdoor fall/winter activity!
Hand warmers are lifesavers for cold weather hiking! I’m the same way, I’ll be out there in shorts but with gloves on – hands are so sensitive to the cold.
The seasonal transitions can be tough. Especially from through summer, fall and winter. Basically all. Haha.
It’s a lot easier to go into fall at least – it’s always a rough transition into winter or summer!
Perfect timing on this as I just started thinking I have no clue what to pack to wear for the Leaf Peeper half! Not only have I not been running that much, I know the temps are going to change drastically from now until then. Plus, once you add the “anything goes” weather of northern Vermont, I may as well pack everything I own!!
Great post and much needed reminders for the best of all running seasons – fall!
Thank you! I definitely have fall races on my brain right now and have been trying to figure out what to pack already. Arm warmers will be a must!
I usually do a seasonal workout essentials post but I realized that I wear the same stuff every season every year now that Ifeel like I can just repost it! lol. you know I love run swiftly shirts so those are typically involved in every season either short sleeve or long sleeved. it stays fairly warm here for a while so I don’t go long sleeve until at least October I think. i have a few lululemon awesome pull overs that just go on top of my run swiftly’s depending on the weather.
It’s good to have those staple pieces! I still need to get my butt to Lululemon to try on some short sleeves, since I’ve been wearing all of my short sleeves even in 45 degree weather lately.
I’ve got some great fall weather options for up top (I have a shrug and arm warmers), but I always find myself reaching for the same light jacket that I’ve just about warn to death! My shrug is pretty awesome, though.
I love the idea of a shrug because it keeps the back/shoulder warm as well without adding extra layers around the core. Arm warmers are a must for fall!
Fall running is trickier than summer running. For summer running in the South, you don’t have to check forecasts or temperatures. You just wear as little as you can legally get away with, for 5 months out of the year.
For fall running, I trade in my tank tops for short sleeves. That’s usually about it… when the winter comes, I’ll pull out the cheap $2 gloves from Target and maybe wear cotton shirts or one of my long-sleeved dry fit shirts from the Charleston Marathon.
I imagine your winters are about the temperature of our falls out here! Cheap gloves are the best for fall races especially. Less worry about dropping them during the race!
Ha, so true! Everyone gets all jazzed up for 50 degrees and dry air with crisp foliage, and then everyone is inevitably disappointed to find that only a lucky few fall days are actually like that. Most of the time it’s either unseasonably warm, or it’s blustery and damp.
I think a lot of it depends on what you are naturally disposed to, as well. I’m a cold weather runner, and I don’t feel totally comfortable running outside until it’s below 60. I just get really warm really quickly when I run, and needless to say I have never once had the problem of being too cold on a run. Until the first snow and cold of winter, I’m pretty much good in capris and either short sleeves or a very thin long sleeve. Weirdly, I don’t need gloves until it gets below freezing. But I know that’s just me. I often see people around the neighborhood running in long sleeves and long pants when it’s nearly 70 out and I break into a sweat just looking at them but maybe they just don’t heat up like I do!
Oh man…this just reminded me how excited I am for capri and tights running weather. Mine are practically begging to be worn!
You and I are so similar on this! 60 degrees feels hot to me on a run. There’s so many people out here all bundled up even in summer and I get sweaty just seeing them! Even in the half I did in March, I was barely dressed in my tank top and shorts compared to most people in tights and long sleeves.
I haaaaate being cold. I’ve got that disorder where my body turns blue (my lips/chin, and my hands/fingers) so I have to get out of my wet stuff STAT otherwise I’m a goner. I’d way rather be hot. The worst race weather or running weather is wind. I haaaaaate wind. I ran Bellingham Bay marathon once and pretty much gave up 10 minutes into it (it’s a point-to-point along the ocean and we were into a headwind the entire route).
Raynaud’s is a tough one to deal with on fall/winter runs. The wind out here is super nasty and I’d hate to be in a wind tunnel for a whole marathon! So mental note not to do Bellingham Bay.
This post gets me excited to run in the fall weather out here!! The next best thing to running in the fall in Seattle….is AZ in the winter. I was able to experience that in January of this year and it was ah-mazing!!!! We had been having horrific weather here and my 4 miles in Phoenix were pure bliss! I digress…. 🙂
Unless it is the dead of winter, I do not layer too much for my runs as I will heat up quickly. Except for my hands….I always wear my gloves. Last year, I had a run that I forgot to put my gloves on and my thumbs were sooooo cold. I was making fists and tucking my thumbs inside. It was not pleasant.
As much as I do love running in the spring/summer, fall (in the PNW) is seriously some of the most amazing weather for running.
It’s funny how perspective makes a difference – I thought our winter out here felt great! It rained a lot but that sure beats the snow that they get almost everywhere else in the country. Fall in the PNW is the best for running!
I was just trying to figure out what to wear for the Portland Marathon! What did you wear for the race in the past?
I wore a tank top and shorts when I ran Portland and I’m glad that was all. It was warm the year I ran it, and there’s not a lot of shade over several sections so it can warm up quite a bit on parts of the course. It is chilly at the start (true PNW fashion) but warms up quickly, so a sweatshirt you can wear until the race starts is helpful. Afterwards they hand out jackets instead of space blankets to help you stay warm, which is so helpful.
I was thinking a tank top and cropped tights/capris (what I’m used to wearing). Thank you for your quick response! I will find myself a sweatshirt too 🙂
You’re welcome! Definitely keep an eye out on the weather forecast as well. PNW weather can change easily! 🙂 And I forgot to add this – with how sunny Portland can be, I was very glad that I wore a visored hat!
Arm warmers are a must! And I only wear a rain jacket if it’s snowing…if it’s warm enough for rain I always get too hot in the jacket!
Oh yes they are! I agree – the only jacket I wear now is my Patagonia Houdini, which is very thin and that’s only for a cold rain. Otherwise jackets are too hot!