How to dress for race day

Shorts, short sleeves and arm warmers fit the bill perfectly.

Shorts, short sleeves and arm warmers fit the bill perfectly.

Tomorrow’s the big day and hopefully you are ready to roll. If you’re new to racing, however, you may still ┬áhave some questions on what to wear on race day. The good news is that the temperature is going to be just about perfect, ranging from a low of about 55 to a high of about 68, with a chance for showers.

The biggest piece of advice I give to newcomers when it comes to racing is quite simply: don’t overdress! This is the number-one mistake I see out there over and over. Yes, it will be a bit chilly when you get to the race site, and yes, you might be chilly for the first few minutes of your race. But trust me, the temperatures are going to warm as you go, and your effort level will ensure that your body’s temperature is going to go up as well. There’s nothing more miserable than overheating during a race–believe me that it will slow your pace.

So what do I recommend wearing, given the forecast? Shorts, not tights. Short sleeves, not long. And a pair of cheap, throwaway gloves that you can pick up at the expo or even your local Target or WalMart.

If it is raining, stick with the shorts, but wear something on top that is body hugging. I ran a marathon last year in California in torrential downpours and I was quite thankful to have on a singlet and arm warmers. Why? None of that can get too weighed down by the rain. You might even consider putting a garbage bag on top of your clothes to wear into the start and first mile or so of the race. And don’t forget to use extra Body Glide or something of that sort!

To stay warm until the gun goes off, add on some layers that you can toss right before you get started. CSE will be collecting all the discarded clothing and donating it to Back on My Feet. So an old, long-sleeved t-shirt or sweatshirt, an old pair of sweats and maybe even a warm hat are good ideas for your top layers. You can also consider arm warmers, which you can roll down or remove as you get moving and stash in a pocket.

You’ll likely cool down quickly after you finish your race, so make sure you include a change of clothes in your checked race bag (handed out at the expo), or have a friend or loved one waiting for you with fresh clothing after the finish line.

So tomorrow–fight the urge to overdress. Stick to the nutrition plan that has worked for you in training. And most of all, have fun!


  1. Why not tights? I hate running in shorts and only where thin tights…can you clarify? Just wondering if I should change it up.

  2. Amanda Loudin says:

    Hey Jessica–Are you running the full? It’s just that tights, even in the rain, are pretty darn hot for these temps when running that long. I know the rain makes us all want to bundle up, but it’s still a long way to run and you don’t want to overheat. I was amazed last year that I was never cold during my marathon in the 50s and pouring rain, and that was in a singlet/arm warmers/shorts. I did us a garbage bag at first though (through mile 2). But if you have run your long training runs in tights and know that you don’t overheat, then go with it.

  3. What would you recommend for the 5K? Shorts and long sleeves or the shorts/short sleeves/arm warmers?

    • Amanda Loudin says:

      Hi Meghan–Do you plan to race it/run it hard? Then I would still stick w/ shorts/arm warmers. If you’re planning to go easier, then sure, wear long sleeves w/ your shorts! Good luck!

  4. I love those arm warmers! perfect gear!!

  5. Hi,
    I’m running 5k for the first time and wanted to know if garbage bag is warm enough from 6:30 – 8? And does it have to be a specific garbage bag (that’s probably a silly question, but we only have the white glad ones)? And I didn’t think to get myself some arm warmers or tights.


  6. Jaime R. Cser says:

    Hi. Thank you so much for this article! This was my first Half Marathon & only my second race ever and first time experiencing the ‘rain’ and colder temps. I’ve always trained in tights, not shorts so did stick with that but took your advice on the arm warmers (& went w. just an Under Armour tank). The arm warmers were perfect! It released the heat where I needed it, gave me some warmth, & worked great helping with my iPhone armband from slipping because of some of the light rain. I was expecting to finish well over at a pace of over 10 minutes/mile but ended up finishing in 2 hours and 4 minutes & I believe the proper attire helped be a part of this!

  7. Amanda Loudin says:

    Jaime–that’s so great to hear! I’m really glad you had a good day–what a nice surprise when you surpass your goals like that! Congrats!!

  8. Thanks for this, as it was perfect. I’ve seen in chilly, seen it hot, but It was the first Baltimore I’d run with any rain. Left my arm sleeves on until I was back at the bag pick-up.

  9. And really the rain was in my mind, as the brief drizzle doesn’t count.

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