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6 ways to stay warm before your race starts

When the weather is chilly on race morning, here's how to avoid getting cold and stiff before the gun goes off

TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2022 Photo by: Canadian Running

When the weather forecast for race day morning is chilly, it can be challenging to.stay warm in the start corral. This is particularly true at larger races, where you must spend some time waiting before the gun goes off. Avoid getting cold and stiff with these six simple strategies that will help you stay comfortable and ready to tackle the course ahead.

Do a 10-15 minute jog warmup

One effective way to stay warm before the race is to do a 10- to 15-minute jog. Not only will this help raise your body temperature, but it will also increase blood flow and loosen your muscles. Once you enter your corral, try doing some dynamic stretching, like high-knee marching or light skipping or jumping. (Just make sure it’s not so vigorous that you tire yourself out before the race starts–or that you inadvertently elbow someone).

Royal Victoria Marathon startline
Photo: RVM

Buy a thrift-store hoodie 

Another great way to stay warm is to layer up with inexpensive clothing that you can peel off early in the race. Thrift stores have inexpensive long-sleeved shirts, sweatpants and jackets that you can wear as extra layers. You can toss them to the side of the course either once you’re running and comfortable, or just before the gun goes off. (Many races have volunteers who collect the discarded clothing so it can be donated. Just make sure to move to the side of the course, so you’re not throwing clothing at the people beside you.) Alternatively, if your race is smaller, you can arrange with a friend or family member to stand on the sidelines near the start, who could catch your layers as you run by.

Wear a garbage bag 

If you don’t want to spend money on “disposable” clothing, a simple and cost-effective solution is to wear a garbage bag. Cut holes for your head and arms, and slip it on like a makeshift poncho. This will help trap your body heat and protect you from the wind. Once the race is about to start, you can easily tear off the garbage bag and continue racing.

leg warmers

Fuel well  

You should always eat a meal or substantial snack a couple of hours before the race, and one of the benefits is it will help you stay warm while you wait. When your body digests food, it produces heat as a byproduct. Aim to consume a balanced breakfast that includes carbohydrate, protein and healthy fats (such as cereal or cooked oatmeal with milk and half a banana, toast with peanut butter or a sandwich with lean protein). Just make sure to only eat foods you’ve already experimented with in training.

How to create a race plan

Take a gel on the start line

In addition to fuelling well before the race, consuming an energy gel or a few bites of an energy bar on the start line will also help you stay warm. Be sure to test different gels during your training to find one that suits your needs and does not upset your stomach.


Keep your head and hands warm

You lose a lot of body heat through your head, so wearing a hat or headband can help you retain warmth;  cold hands can also be uncomfortable and affect your performance. Invest in a good hat and a pair of gloves suitable for running in cold weather. If you only plan on wearing them at the beginning of the race, pick up some cheaper options at a thrift store that you can throw away as the race starts.


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