Choosing a Race Day Outfit

My race day outfit is something that I try to start thinking about 2-3 weeks in advance of a big race.

This gives me the opportunity to test out possible outfits on my longer runs leading up to the race.  It also gives me the opportunity to test out my outfits in all sorts of weather conditions.  For a March race, there is always some chance of rain or snow, so it is wise to see how your gear holds up with varying levels of precipitation and changes in temperature.

Will your outfit keep you dry and toasty, or will it soak, sticking to your body and then freezing against your skin?  It is worthwhile to find out in advance of the big day.

There are a few factors that I like to consider when choosing my outfit:


It is best not to obsess over the weather in the weeks leading up to the race.  For local races, if you have been running your training runs outdoors (which you should!) you will have a general sense of what range the weather will be in.

Have 2-3 possible outfits lined up depending upon what the weather will be at the start.  For instance, if the temperature will be in the low 30s, I may prefer to wear tights instead of crops.  If there is a chance that the temperature may increase drastically during a race, I may want to layer and wear a tank under a long sleeve tech shirt.  This would mean pinning my race bib to my pants or a race belt if I choose to remove the top layer, so I would need to keep that in mind when choosing bottoms, as well.

Consider which of your favorite tops and bottoms will hold up best for a long run in the rain or snow.  If you’ve had a particularly damp run during your training and felt comfortable in a particular outfit, you may want to stick with that.

Refer to your training log to refresh your memory of which outfits worked well under various weather conditions.

Give the weather one final check the night before your big race to help you settle on your outfit choice.


Are you tired of all of your race day photos showing you smiling (or grunting/sweating/choking on Gatorade) in a favorite periwinkle top?

It could be time to pick a new color.

Color may influence mood, so pick one that makes you feel powerful and confident.

Color is also a way to help make yourself stand out to friends or family who may be cheering you on.  For instance, if you’re running a race on St. Patrick’s Day, you may consider wearing pink or red to stand out from the sea of green.

Functionality & Storage Features

It goes without saying, but choose gear that is made for running.

The fabrics should be moisture wicking.  The fit should be optimal for race day performance.  Your clothes should have features that optimize functionality (think:  mesh under the arms for increased breathability, compression features in your pants or crops, pockets to stash keys and gels, etc.).

If you are running a longer race, such as a half marathon or a full marathon, you may want to have a few extra pockets in your race day outfit.  I tend to carry quite a bit during a long race: cell phone, keys, gels, energy bars, cash… I need a place to stash all of these things.

I adore my SPIbelt and have worn it for most of my races, but it can be somewhat cumbersome when fully loaded, so I may move away from it for my upcoming race.

Last summer, with a birthday gift from El Profesor (plus a great in-store markdown) I invested in a pair of Lululemon’s Marathon Crops.  Among their many fantastic features, these pants boast seven (7!!!!!!!) pockets:  a zippered pocket in the back, four gel pockets at the waist, and two large pockets at the sides.

I find that when all of the gel pockets are loaded, the pants tend to be a bit tight at the waist, so I’ve been training with two gels in the waist pockets and another two in a side pocket.  I keep my phone in the other side pocket and my keys in the back zippered pocket.

I have tested these out numerous times in training, and depending on the weather I will either be wearing run tights and my SPIbelt or my Marathon Crops.


I am not just talking about chafing here, but that is a huge factor.

Be sure to choose outfits that have been worn time and time again.  You should know all of their quirks — and if they have quirks, you should probably choose something else for race day.  If it’s too tight, too loose, too itchy — ditch it and pick something else.

Beyond merely avoiding discomfort, consider what features will make you more comfortable.  Do thumb holes make you smile?  Do they mean that your sleeves will stay down and also that your hands will stay warm and toasty?  Is the fabric of your top fantastically moisture wicking but also so soft to the touch you’d swear it was your favorite tee that you’ve worn time and time again?

You want to pick clothes that make you feel comforted in addition to comfortable.


Is there one outfit that you go back to time and time again, because it fits perfectly, it holds up in all sorts of weather, you’ve PRed in it…several times?

If you have a tried and true favorite, there is no reason why you can’t keep running in it.

Most importantly, lay out all of your race gear the night before the race.  This means everything: race day outfit, undergarments, socks, sneakers, gels, energy bars, cash, ID, race bib, chip/D-tag, any accessories (SPIbelt or similar, hats and headbands, gloves or scarves, and any layers that you intend to toss at the start), and a packed change and personal items (body wipes, moisturizer, deodorant, etc.) if you will be checking a bag.

This will significantly reduce race morning pressure and make it easier for you to get out the door and at the starting line faster.

Run On™

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Race Day Outfit

  1. Pingback: Getting Ready for Race Day: 2013 NYC Half Edition | Rachel On and On

  2. Pingback: Fueling for the Long Run | Rachel On and On

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