My tips on running a marathon in colder than expected weather


One of the many challenges of preparing for a long distance race is facing the “unknown” or the “uncontrollable”.  You put hours and hours into training and it all comes to a peak on just one day or 4-6 hours of your life.  It’s a small window.  We can all be affected by events which simply cannot be predicted. Cold weather or extraordinary hot weather is one of these uncontrollable events.  As far as I know no-one has control over mother nature! Some of you may be looking at the temperature predictions for Sunday’s marathon and may be a little concerned about what to do.  Here are some tips you can use on race day if it does end up being as cold as they say at the start.


The key is cheap disposable clothing for the start (which eventually gets to charity) you will eventually warm up and shed these layers.  A good rule of thumb is to dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than the actual air temperature or if you are sweating indoors getting ready then you have too much on!:

  • Wear an old throw away long sleeved cotton tee.  It’s a great opportunity to get rid of that old not technical cotton shirt that you never wear.  All disposed of clothing goes to charity.
  • Buy a cheap winter hat, also disposable.  You know what they say heat escapes through the top of your head. So cover it up!
  • Buy cheap gloves; these are usually available at the expo.
  • Use hand warmers like at the Bears game or cross country skiing.  You can buy them at most sports stores, pharmacies or even target!
  • Wear a garbage bag at the start.  This will block the wind and keep you toasty.
  • Use arm warmers. You can either buy real ones or you can cut the toes off of old socks and wear them on your arms.
  • You can also buy sheddable jackets and pants at the expo.  Usually they are $10 a piece or so.
  • There is no prediction of rain, but if it changes bring a light running jacket or you can use the sheddable jacket above.
  • Have a friend or family member meet you at miles 3-5 to take any unwanted clothing from you.

Based on the temperature predictions (39 at start) do not deviate too much from what you know.  Wear what you were planning on wearing but use the layers to buffer any start line heat loss. 

Also, while waiting in your corral move around to stay warm. 


Because of the cold temperatures you may forget to drink.  Do not do this. Hydrate early and often no matter what the temperature is. The cold air will just mask the fact that you are still sweating!


About Gillian

I am a type 1 diabetic diagnosed at the age of 30. I run marathons, participate in bike races , ironman triathlons and everything in between.
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