How to dress for winter running and train for a half marathon

This pandemic winter I have discovered I like winter running! 

Winter running last week!

Merino wool magic

Purchasing a bunch of merino wool gear has made all the difference. I now own three merino wool tops and a pair of merino wool long underwear, also known as a super warm base layer. Plus I got myself an REI lightweight pair of merino wool sock liners and a pair of silk sock liners that go underneath my merino wool socks. You got that right, two pairs of socks inside my running shoes keeps my tootsies nice and warm!

The side benefit of running all winter is that I get to see my triathlon pals live and in-person at least once a week. Considering the only other person I see in person these days is my housemate, seeing Jenny, Monica, Marie, Nadine and Brooke with consistent frequency has been a saving grace to my sanity and sense of belonging and connection. 

Beginner Mind Runner

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned that I don’t consider myself that much of a runner. Often I fall out of the running habit and then when I get back into it, it’s like starting over again and again and again. Thankfully I have a tendency to embrace the Zen concept of the Beginner’s Mind. As a result I don’t get too frustrated when I have to begin, again. 

Stay fit all year

That said, I do wonder what would happen if I just became a year round runner. My pal Jenny and I recently talked about the idea that Sally Edwards talks about, “just never get out of shape.” I like that idea! Just make sure that all year round you keep your body fit and strong. 

Race Motivation

Having a race scheduled helps me stay motivated and focused. These days most of the races are virtual. Thankfully the virtual races still have swag and medals!!! Which helps keep things fun. Jenny, Brooke and I have decided that we will do the Get In Gear Half Marathon on Saturday, April 24th, 2021. Good chance it will be a virtual event. That’s okay, we can get a few people to help us with food and hydration!!


We’ve been using the Lolo 10K app from Jeff Galloway with great success. It’s true, it’s an out of date app, thus there are serious problems with it. However, it does have an excellent training plan of miles, tempo runs, speed work and long slow distance runs. Best of all, for all our runs, it lets us do a 2 or 3 minutes run rhythm with 30 seconds of walking. I love the run-walk-run method!! 

Half Marathon Race 

April 24th is about 15 weeks from today. I took a look at Hal Hidgon’s Half Marathon training programs, which I’ve used in the past. They are available for no cost and they are good. I decided to purchase the $14.99 Half Marathon app from Jeff Galloway. (It only works on iPhones, sorry my Android friends.) Jenny happens to already own this app. That will keep us on the same program. It’s a 17 week plan, so we are in it as of right now! Thankfully we’ve been running steady since September, so jumping in on Week 2 will be okay.

What gear to wear when it’s cold

Back to my merino wool obsession. Do you wonder what gear to wear when you run outside? Living in a cold climate makes this a complex situation. After all, once you get going, you do start sweating. But getting started when you’re cold is HARD!!

A few years ago I found this very helpful chart that’s adopted from Jeff Galloway’s Book: Marathon… You Can Do It! I added a few of my own notes and commentary to it. 

This guide has helped me quite a bit! I hope it helps you get out there running all year too!

Degrees FDegrees CClothing Recommendations
60+15.56Tank top/singlet and shorts
50 – 5910 to 15T-shirt/tech shirt and shorts
40 – 494.4 to 10Long sleeved shirt or short sleeved shirt with arm warmers (I use bike arm warmers!) shorts or tights depending on how cold it feels and if there is wind, gloves or mittens (I wear the kind that has fingers with a glove wind cover that is optional.) I also wear a headband that covers my ears (I HATE cold ears!)
30 – 39-1 to -4.4Long Sleeved shirt (not merino wool at this temp) with a second shirt over that, tights and shorts, heavier socks (smart wool or darn tough are favorite brands) mittens/gloves (I wear mittens as my fingers stay warmer) hat or headband over the ears. If it’s super windy (that cold wind) I will also wear a wind jacket (I use my cycling rain coat by Showers Pass)
20 – 29-6.7 to -4.4Moisture-wicking top and thick long sleeved t-shirt (I wear my light weight merino wool now!), tights and shorts, heavier socks, mittens/gloves, hat that covers ears. Again, at these lower temps, I would also wear a wind resistant top. Since I hate my face being cold, I would likely have a neck gator or two with me and tuck my face in it periodically.
10 – 19-6.7 to -1.1Moisture-wicking top and thick long sleeved t-shirt (time for 2 merino wool tops!!), tights and shorts, wind resistant outer layer (for both top and bottom) heavier socks, thick mittens (finally they say mittens and not gloves!) thick hat over ears. 
0 – 9-6.7 to -12Two moisture-wicking tops, thick tights and shorts, thick underwear, wind resistant outer layer… Gore-tex or similar fabric) thick mittens (or gloves) face mask, hat that covers ears, Vaseline or Bodyglide on exposed skin (this works! I’ve done it!!)
Minus 1 – Minus 15Below -12Really, are you outside running at these temperatures?! If so, the same as the above, just be sure you are keeping your feet warm. Hand and toe warmers would be an excellent addition!
Minus 20 and belowBelow -18Add layers as needed, or run on a treadmill if you have access to one. 

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15 thoughts on “How to dress for winter running and train for a half marathon”

  1. Great recommendations, Mari. And the chart!! So awesome! Central NY tries to compete with MN for brutal winter (you can have that trophy every time!) and mittens are essential. For race day, if it’s a chilly start and the organizers collect cast off clothing for the homeless, I buy socks or use a decent pair of my own. By Mile 2-3, the day and I are warm enough to let go.

    • Thanks for letting us here in Minnesota win all the brutal winter contests Christine! You made me laugh out loud!!! Great idea about the cast off clothing! Keep on running my friend!!

  2. Love all of these great suggestions and the comments from others. I have indeed learned to pile it on. My other suggestions would be Neos overshoes for those who can’t be bothered to find good boots and rechargeable handwarmers from Costco. The later also charges phone batteries in a pinch.

    Thanks for your leadership as always. Lead on.

    • Great additional ideas amazing Linda!!! Huge thanks for reading this blog each week!! YOU are an amazing Leader!!!!

  3. Thank you Mari! Really helpful chart and I so appreciate your inspiration to stay active and to keep getting out there even when it’s COLD. Ugh, I’m a freeze baby and really want to keep running outside (I just got into running this past year), but hard to get myself going when the temps are low, plus I worry about slipping. Do you have any tips for running without falling on my a$$? And I should also mention I’ve appreciated so much of your information – for example the 7M Women exercise app – I’m on there almost daily thanks to you!

    • I’m so glad you’ve been doing the Daily 7 Kathy!!! I finally purchased a yearly membership to Workout for Women and I’m currently doing the Body Blast program along with the Daily7!! It’s kicking my booty and body!! Great fun! The clothing gear is the key to running outside! Also, to help with the slipping, shorten your stride!!! That keeps your feet under you. Also, here in Minneapolis, we have a great trail system that gets plowed often before the sidewalks get shoveled. We do our long runs on those trails, as there’s less to slip on. Also, as your core gets stronger, you’re much less likely to lose your balance and fall!!! One last thing, for super slippery days, I do wear DueNorth Ice and Snow Traction Aids, the Everyday G-3 version. They work amazingly well!

  4. I just sent this to my nephew who is thinking of moving to Minneapolis from Maryland 🙂 I would also add some sort of yaktrax type thing for traction if you are running on snow in running shoes. I personally XC ski instead if there’s snow 🙂 and wear balaclavas when it’s below zero, or even below 10-20 depending on if it’s windy or not.

    • Sarah,
      Thanks for sharing this blog with your nephew! I do have a yaktrax type thing for my shoes but haven’t had to use them this winter yet. I too cross country ski, but so far I’m keeping up with the running!! Thanks for following along and excellent idea about the balaclava!!!

  5. I remember that chart from your book! How timely and helpful to see it again now. Thank you for your instruction and inspiration. New gear is always good for a few weeks of easy motivation getting out the door.

    • This list is indeed super helpful!!! Glad I could provide a little extra motivation you athletic editor Kitty!!!

  6. I am new at walking in winter and challenged with an understanding of weather and clothing. I have been looking for something like this that’s tested and affordable for a long time. Do you have a mitten or gloves recommendation? Thank you for this great list, forever grateful.

    • Hi Deepa! Glad you found this helpful. I have a few mittens recommendations! I will send you a text with a few ideas!! Mittens keep your hands warmer!

  7. Mari, you’ve captured perfectly the gifts of winter running with friends: “a saving grace to my sanity and sense of belonging and connection.”

    Me too! I don’t think I could have made it through a pandemic winter without this weekly social and exercise connection. Thanks for being part of my saving grace. And for motivating me to do another half-marathon!

    • Jenny,
      I know you get it!! I’m SO SO SO glad I get to see you safely so often!! Half-marathon here we come!!!

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