Fall Running: Essential Gear

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Running Expert: James Storm

Every year I find my summer running gear moving towards the back of the drawer and my winter transition gear creeping forward, forecasting the inevitable change in weather. Many find this impending change of seasons sad, knowing that winter is right around the corner. Like summer and winter running, the right gear makes it no big deal to tackle any type of run, be it the long run, intervals or tempo runs, but fall presents a different monster completely. 

Unlike summer and winter running, fall temperatures can have a great range in a short amount of time. It is not uncommon to wake up to 40 or 50 degree temperatures only to find it is mid to high 70’s, or reverse that when you get home from work. Most people will have different clothing for both of these temperatures, and if you’re going out for a long run, you may be quite uncomfortable for at least part of your run. This wide range of temperatures is where the problem lies with fall running. It is as if you are running in two different seasons in one run. A big key to success with fall running is finding your comfort level with each temperature during your run and the correct clothing needed for the different temperatures you will face.

There are a few things that most runners agree upon when the weather starts to change for the cooler. When you start your run, run into the wind and when you’re coming back, run with the wind. The rationale is as the temperature gets cooler, you want to get the colder and most uncomfortable part of your run done first. When running with the wind, your body will be warmer and hence more comfortable. I start doing this when the high temperature during my run is going to be in the mid 50’s. This is a personal preference and not something set in stone. Remember when you are sweaty and make that turnaround half way through your run and hit the wind head on at 45 degrees, it is cold!

Second, check the weather before you go out to run. You would be shocked at how fast the weather can, and will, change and being unprepared as a runner is one of the worst things you can be. Knowledge is power; check the forecast before you go out.

Third, dress appropriately. This is something many novice runners struggle with, so we are going to spend some time getting to know product and concepts. With that being said, let’s get started on what to wear and when to wear it. 

You need to know what your “breaking point” is for getting long sleeves and leggings out. This can be a hard one to determine for many, especially for long runs. I find that making a few shorter runs in the extreme temperatures will make life easier. Take a 5 mile run in the colder and warmer temps and test your comfort level in the clothes you have chosen. If you’re comfortable in a long sleeve shirt in both temperatures, then that’s your ticket. If you find yourself uncomfortable in the long sleeve at 50 degrees, but without question you need it at 30, then let’s get you some sleeves!

Next up, your legs! One of the first things I do as the temperature starts to drop is wear shorts with a longer seam; I love to wear a 2 in 1 short that has a compression liner. When the temperature is at a point that a 2 in 1 short isn’t going to cut it, then let’s take a look at some other options. The leg version of the running sleeve is a great choice and they will slip into your FlipBelt next to your running sleeves! If you want to wear something more permanent than leg sleeves, leggings might be right up your alley.

Under Armour makes a fantastic product for keeping your arms at a nice temperature when the weather isn’t too cold, but where you need a long sleeve. I have used these on bike rides as well, just to keep the chill off while the sun comes out to warm me up. These are nice because you don’t have to carry a second shirt.

I wear leggings all through winter, many with wind and water protection. Leggings are very light can be worn with or without your running shorts and are very comfortable for the cooler fall days.

Last up, accessories! The right hat, gloves, or even socks can make a world of difference on a cool, fall run. We lose a significant amount of heat through our extremities with our head scoring highest on the heat exchange ACT test and our hands right behind. Knowing that, I cannot tell you how many times a simple running hat or gloves have made the difference in my run.

I wear a FlipBelt on every one of my runs. They are invaluable for carrying food, keys and a cellphone in summer and can easily carry the sleeves and accessories you’ll need for a successful fall run!

I will never forget running a half marathon in the early fall a few years back with the temperature hovering around 28 degrees at start time. I had checked the forecast and the sun was going to stay out all day long and within an hour it was to be in the low 40’s, for me, this was perfect racing weather! I grabbed a winter running jacket to keep me warm while I waited for the start of the race that I was going to pass off to my family two miles into the race. It was going to help my body warm up fast at the front of the race. I also had a nice moisture wicking running cap to wear through the entire race. I was warm enough by mile two to hand off the jacket and the cap kept me solid through the next 11 miles. I managed to come across the finish line with a huge smile and a sweat soaked cap and new personal record for the half marathon! So, when you head out for that fall run, make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s and you will have a perfect run to tell all your friends about!

Happy running, and I’ll see you on trails!