KP Half Marathon Countdown: WEDNESDAY – 4 days to go
Dress for success.
The first Sunday in February in San Francisco can be quite unpredictable weather-wise. It might rain. It might be unseasonably warm (70’s). Check the weather forecast and then still prepare for all conditions.
What shoes will you race in? Most people can get by with regular training shoes or lightweight trainers for a half marathon. You’re probably on the pretty elite side if you have racing flats for 13.1 miles. Don’t forget to pick the right socks. Your lucky race socks are the obvious choice if you are superstitious. The sock should certainly be made of wicking microfibers so they don’t rub you raw if they get wet from rain or sweat.
You want to have something that keeps you warm (top and bottom) to warm-up and stretch in. This can be a longsleeve shirt, a sweatshirt or jacket, or sweatpants. Don’t bring your whole wardrobe because you need to put it somewhere before the race starts but do wear something to stay warm. I cringe when I see runners wearing what they plan to race in standing around one hour before the race starts shivering or jumping up and down to stay warm.
If it’s wet, a good way to stay as dry as possible (and thus as warm as possible) before the race is a garbage bag with holes cut out for your head and arms. Or an old rain poncho. Use something that you don’t mind throwing away right before the race so you can keep it on as long as possible. Your goal before the race is to stay as dry and warm as possible.
Staying warm during the race is key. Heat escapes through your extremities (feet, head, hands). You can’t do much more than wear your shoes and socks on your feet. For your head, a beanie is wise. If it’s raining, a hat with a bill will shield your face from the rain. For your hands, gloves.
Wearing something to cover your arms is often desired. This can be tricky. You can wear a shirt under the singlet for warmth. If you go with a long sleeve one, try to have it fit snuggly so you aren’t catching extra wind with your baggy sleeves. A downside to these undershirts is there’s no going back…it’s pretty hard to take it off mid-race. A new way to combat this shortcoming is to wear arm warmers over your arms. If you get too hot you can take these off like gloves and stuff them into a pocket or hand them to someone. Another option is to wear something over your singlet (long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, or microfiber shirt) that you can take off mid-race and tie around your waist. If employing this strategy, remember that you are supposed to have your race bib number prominently displayed on your front at all times.
A lot of people wear tights to keep their legs warm. It’s a personal preference thing. I think people who normally wear tights are used to it and like it. It has to be really freezing out (single digits) before I wear tights. I always have this (probably irrational) fear that I am going to get hot and be uncomfortable in tights.
The trend of wearing compression socks has two advantages and two disadvantages. Advantage one is that the socks, which come up to just below the knee, give additional skin coverage and thus added warmth. They also provide compression to the calf muscles. This compression is both advantage number two and disadvantage number one because the compression can become uncomfortable in the later stages of the race. The last disadvantage is the fairly obvious fact that if you start the race wearing compression socks, you are basically committed. There’s no taking them off mid-race.
If it’s raining, face it, you are going to get wet. All you can hope for (besides running so fast that you run between the rain drops) is to finish as quickly as possible and get out of the elements. Early in the race, I try to avoid puddles and go as long as possible with dry shoes and socks. But once they become saturated, I stop wasting energy and going the extra distance to dodge puddles. Remember, too, that if it’s raining your socks are probably going to get wet and muddy and may possibly never look the same again. If ruining a pair of sentimentally favorite socks is going to be devastating, don’t use them if it’s likely to be raining.
I advise people to make sure their top, whether it’s a shirt or singlet, be made of a microfiber/wicking/dry release material. These types of fabrics pull moisture (i.e. sweat) away from your body. It’s more comfortable to not be in a drenched t-shirt, wicking the moisture away from your skin decreases the chances of chaffing, and these fabrics help keep you cool on a warm day.