Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): What to Wear in 2013

I figure since I loosely covered dress code in 2012 I’d better revisit for 2013. It’s unusual to say the least that you’re getting fashion counsel from a guy still ensconced in Fall 1997 wardrobe, but my thoughts here are light on style and heavier on substance, so I guess it works out.

I also realize that running attire is a lot everything else in life … we like what we like and regardless of what anyone else has to say we stick to our preferences. And that’s okay. I’m not here to convert anyone, or to judge. I’m just here to give you a lay of the land and encourage you to govern yourself accordingly.

Now, this past year I don’t know if I’ve grown much as a runner, but I can say that in that time my attire has gone through a modest makeover.

Specifically, the last two years I’ve worn the exact same pair of shorts to every race I’ve ever run. Every race. I loved them because they were light and loose and a little long. But then I experimented with a pair of actual running shorts (from Costco and a pair from REI), and well, consider my life forever changed. Wow. Sure, they’re a touch shorter than I’m normally comfortable with, but that’s okay. And the, ummm, sewn-in, ummm, underwear thingy I guess is what you call it … heavenly.

Secondly, sticking with the less-is-more mantra of my running shorts, I’ve ditched the headband. It didn’t bother me when I ran with it, but then I ran a race without it and the difference was remarkable. I just felt unencumbered without it. Lastly, I stepped down my compression tank to more of a light weight singlet, courtesy of my loosely organized ‘Run Club’ at work (well, I had to buy it, so not really ‘courtesy of’).

But that’s all good for summer in Saint Paul. We’re here to talk about fall in Chicago. Point taken. Let’s go.

‘I’m freezing just looking at you’

That’s what the friendly woman next to me repeated as we toed the start line in 2012. Admittedly I was a little chilly, but that lasted only as long as it took me to exit the port-o-potty and for the starter to count down the race. It’s too early to know the weather on race day, but the week leading up to it looks sunny and glorious (lows around 50), and the week of looks wet and glum.

Knowing that much, if the weather holds, here’s how my gear will shake out in 2013:

Shorts or pants

Bottom line, if the starting line looks like this, then yeah, I’ll wear long sleeves and long bottoms. Otherwise less is more for me.

Cap: This will be a race-day decision. While I sweat like Patrick Ewing in the fourth quarter it hasn’t affected me when I run nearly as much as I thought it would (burning eyes, for example). So the headband is likely out (for the reason I mentioned earlier), but if it’s truly cold I’ll consider keeping it in play or wearing a modest skull cap of sorts. At worst you should consider tossing a cap in your bag for after the race in the festival area. You’ll have worked up a good sweat and chances are there will be a breeze and chill in the air.

Race ‘singlet’: Very lightweight. I like my compression tops, but may current sleeveless number is always riding up on me and gets all halter toppish, so the loose, light race singlet gets the nod. As a backup I’ll bring my long-sleeve compression top from Target and wear that, but it has to be really, really, really cold. I’ll have a hooded fleece that I’ll toss on after the race.

Compression arm sleeves: I ran in these the last two Urbanathlons and they provide some nice warmth and comfort. It will have to be mid-50s for me to consider leaving these in my bag. This is also the one time of the year I can wear these, so necessity or not, they may make a showing.

Shorts: Black running shorts. They’re almost like a gateway running short, since they aren’t the really thin, short-short ones. I’ll tuck a pair of running leggings in the far reaches of my suitcase in the event we’re hit with a blizzard.

Wide receiver gloves: If you’ve spent more than 30 seconds poking around this blog you know I’m a huge advocate for gloves at the Urbanathlon. Between the mud you’ll invariable encounter, the climbing, the traversing, and the cold, it’s silly to not wear them.

Just about any inexpensive glove will do, be it batting gloves, receiver gloves, or a pair of mechanic or garden gloves (as long as there is some grip on the palm). And from a previous reader tip, consider a pair of expendable gloves that you can toss out either just before the monkey bars (so your hands are now dry for that climb) or immediately after they help you across the monkey bars (if you truly have a disdain for gloves). I’ve said too much …

Shoes: A big change here. I’m going with my Sketcher GoRun 2s. Very light. Sneaky comfortable. Will hold up well for the duration of the race and keep me light on my toes for Soldier Field and the Marine hurdles and final wall.

Accessories: Just one. I will likely run with my SpiBelt so that I can pocket one or two Roctane GUs. Last year I popped a homemade gel along Monroe Harbor before Soldier Field, and I’ll do the same this year (going with a commercial gel this year), and maybe, just maybe a second one later in the race (unlikely, but I at least want the option).

Oh, and I’m 50-50 on whether I’ll wear a GPS watch. With the obstacles the math gets kind of fuzzy so I don’t know if I need that swirling around my head. If it’s mostly dry (I have a Motorola MotoActv) I’ll more than likely wear it so that I can at least get a modest read on my current pace during those longer stretches.

I should also mention my backpack. Plan to bring your own bag (unless for security measures Men’s Health requires everything in a clear plastic bag, like we just had at the Twin Cities 10K ). Your race packet should come with a number to pin on it, which is nice. The bag drop is pretty efficient, too, but last year log jammed just before it was time to line up in your wave (drop area is pretty small with a handful of volunteers available to shepherd your bag to its spot).

Speaking of log jams. The port-o-potties get backed up, too, but last year I wandered past the crowd toward where the last wave starts (well within the festival area, just at the back of it) and there was a long row of lonely untapped port-o-potties.

Put it all together: In hindsight, I guess it makes more sense to think through what you will wear after the race, not so much during the race (if you plan to hang out at the festival). Here’s what I’ll be wearing:

What to wear Urbanathlon 2013

Throw some arm sleeves and gloves on this photo and that about covers it, literally, for me at the 2013 Urbanathlon in Chicago (including the PowerBar in hand).


2 thoughts on “Men’s Health Urbanathlon (Chicago): What to Wear in 2013

  1. During the taper this week and next, it’s a good idea to try to do some runs in the morning around when race time will be (if you’re in Chicago climate) so you can tweak your running gear, and get your body acclimatized to running in fall morning temperatures. Better to find out now that you need to pick up some tights or a hat, or that you hate your tights or hat around mile 6 then on race day.

    • A great bit of advice (and a very good reminder about tapering). Our MN climate is pretty close, but I agree, that the early morning running can be a whole different beast this time of year (very chilly, but warms up quickly). Trial and error; there’s still time to work it out. Thanks for the insight!

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