When Is It Too Cold to Wear a Singlet?

It’s so easy dressing for summer runs. Since we can pretty much guarantee warm temperatures, we never really have to consider anything other than shorts and a tech shirt. For me, starting in April or May, I go with singlets (or “tank tops,” although I can’t say for sure if there’s really a difference between the two). Because I run so much in hot weather, it’s nice having something that wicks moisture and keeps me (somewhat) cooler.

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I don’t know why I didn’t start wearing singlets sooner; they’re fantastic. (Of course, I don’t have the body of a traditional long-distance runner, so maybe I had to learn not to be so self-conscious.) I look back at some old race photos and really wonder what I was thinking for my wardrobe!

MU 5K 2013 Todd Lesser finished 1st 5K

Now that we’re into November, I have to think about how much longer I can continue wearing singlets. I’ve worn one throughout the fall, and even over my last few long runs, I haven’t had any problem staying warm. Of course, fall will eventually turn to winter, and having such an exposed upper body will no longer be an option. But at what point does it become too cold to wear a singlet?

When Jen and I ran the Wineglass Marathon in early October, we both wore a singlet—even though the temperature at the start was in the 30’s (definitely winter-like). However, it turned out to be a PLEASURE because it warmed up to the upper 50’s by the time we finished, and I never felt uncomfortable.

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We stock up on Walmart’s $3 blankets to use as throwaways before races

When we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon last January, it was also in the 30’s at the start. (Yes, FLORIDA—it’s funny how temperatures can fluctuate at that time of the year.) But for the first 10 miles or so, I was so cold in my costume—a short-sleeved shirt and shorts—that at one point my fingers went numb. (Note: The race starts at 5:30 a.m.)

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Fortunately, 7+ hours later, temps had warmed up quite a bit… 😉

So it’s hard to say what’s too cold and what’s not. Of course, when running in the cold, we can just keep ourselves warm with layers and remove items if we get too hot. But the thing with me is that if I layer, I’ll rarely take the layers off. I’d rather not tie shirts around my waist or have to head home (or my car) to shed them. On the flip side, if I choose to wear less clothing, I run the risk of having a chilly, unpleasant run.

Recently, during some of my short, midweek, morning runs, I’ve had to put on a long-sleeved shirt. I’m not complaining because I much prefer the cooler weather. But with fall weather constantly changing, especially as it warms up from morning to early afternoon, it’s becoming tougher to plan for the start AND the later part of run.

Jen and I have one more big race lined up this fall—the Manchester City Marathon & Half Marathon in New Hampshire—and I imagine I’ll transition away from singlets soon after that. I really prefer to wear one in the race, since that’s what I’ve been training in for the last few months (and I DON’T want to overdress). If the temperature is going to reach the 50’s, I think I’ll go with a singlet, even if it’s supposed to be cold at the start. (That sort of answers the question in this blog’s title.)

I’ll bring plenty of backup options, though. Maybe a sleeveless shirt. Perhaps a short-sleeved shirt for more coverage. We’ll see. But if it’s too cold to wear shorts, then I KNOW I’ll have to keep my singlet in my suitcase.

Thanks for reading,

Todd

6 thoughts on “When Is It Too Cold to Wear a Singlet?

  1. I live in SC and feel like everyone overdresses here! I was guilty when I was a newer runner but now, the cooler the better. Also, Ralph has a good idea about the arm sleeves, but when I was a newer runner I don’t ever remember seeing those so I wore long sleeves more often. Now, I keep throw away jackets and things for start lines that are cold and then take them off. I would much rather start a race a little chilly because I know I’ll warm up as soon as I start running.

    For me the first winter attire I break out is def. the gloves… followed by shirts with sleeves… followed by long sleeves. It almost never gets cold enough in Charleston to run in pants or tights but I do have them in case it does happen. I have worn them before due to knee injuries and wanting the compression, though.

    And no… I have no clue in the difference in a singlet and a tank top. I just know singlet sounds fancier, hahaha.

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    • I’m definitely with you on “the cooler the better”! Rather than overdress at the start, we tend to wear our normal race attire and cover up with throwaway blankets.

      Here in New Jersey, winter temperatures can get pretty low, so we’re well-stocked with warm-weather running gear! I’ll always break out my hat and gloves. Jen, on the other hand, hates wearing gloves and would rather deal with numb fingers.

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  2. For my everyday running, I usually overdress, and tie things around my waist. I like having that flexibility. However for races, I often wear a throw away shirt and dress light. I ran Boston in 2015 and I was all prepared with a pretty new tank top and skirt and over the weekend the weather turned much colder, and rainy. Was not expecting that!! I pretty much ended up wearing my throw away jacket for most of the race along with any other throw away warm gloves, hat and arm warmers that I had. Ever since then I make sure I have a WIDE array of running options packed for away races!

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    • Yeah, I think I’m going to start packing some extra clothes for races…especially at this time of the year. I’ll probably have to get used to tying stuff around my waist.

      Way to be resourceful for Boston! Good thing you had all those options so you could still enjoy the experience. 🙂

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