Autumn running watch: when you just don’t know what to wear

It’s mid-October, so Britain is firmly in the grip of Autumn (aka Fall, for American readers…). An unseasonable burst of heat in September extended the Summer a bit, but all the signs that everyone’s favourite season sandwiched after Summer and before Winter is here. Consider the evidence:

1. Leaves are turning brown and falling off trees with reckless abandon.

2. Train firms are actually cutting back on commuter services for fear of leave on the line. No, really.

3. It’s still dark when I wake up at around seven am.

4. It’s getting dark not long after six pm.

5. The shops are full of halloween merchandise. Seriously, how much halloween merch is there this year? What happened to a spot of half-hearted trick or treating and saving the excitement for Guy Fawkes Night? (American readers: Guy Fawkes Night is when Britain builds bonfires and sets of fireworks to celebrate the failure of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Because of course we do).

6. It’s suddenly getting a bit cold, even on days with clear blue skies when the sun is shining. Which also means that…

7. Trying to work out what to wear when I go out for a run has become a nightmare.

Here’s the thing. Tonight I got home from work around six pm, and went out for a run about half-an-hour later. By that time it was basically dark. It was also kinda cold, especially with a bit of a chill wind. But it wasn’t that biting, icy winter cold. It was the sort of cold you felt when you first venture out into it, but can fight off with a bit of activity. You know, like running.

So the challenge is trying to wear enough clothes that you’re not cold at the start of the run, but not so many that you end up overheating near the end when you warm up. And that’s surprisingly hard.

A technical running T-shirt clearly isn’t enough. So a long-sleeved running tech top? Sounds good, but what if that chill wind picks up? It cuts right through a technical top. Perhaps the windproof running jacket, then? No, that’ll be too much. It’s so good at cutting out the wind and keeping the heat in that I’ll boil.

Okay then, a long-sleeved running top, topped with a short-sleeved running top. Two layers sounds good. Well, it could work, except my core tends to stay quite warm. It’s my hands that get cold. Gloves then? Let’s try gloves.

Aaah, but which gloves? My thin running gloves which offer a touch of wind protection but little added warmth? Or the ones with a bit of fleece lining I can get my fingers toasty in? Yeah, let’s try the fleece ones.

So we’re sorted then. Long-sleeved running top, short-sleeved running top, fleece gloves, shorts (I always do shorts, my legs never really get cold), running shoes (obviously), and no hat. Definitely not cold enough for a hat. Done. Sorted.

Fitted out then, I set off into the evening autumn gloom. Around 5k later, and… I’m a bit too warm, really. Particularly my hands. That chill wind wasn’t really there, and without that to cool me down my hands got a bit clammy and sweaty in the fleece gloves.

And so goes the challenge of picking out the right kit to wear while running in the autumn – when you try to predict the largely unpredictable. I know people who can’t bear the thought of going running in the height of winter, when it’s properly cold. But that’s never bothered me – I actually enjoy the challenge.  And, as a bonus, it’s far easier to work out what to wear…


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