My buddy Vinny drives me crazy sometimes. We've been training for over 7 years and he'll still call me up and ask me what I'm wearing. It's kinda weird. Not that he's trying to coordinate outfits with me. That would be ...weirder.
He just can't decide on the perfect combination of lower body and upper body gear. It doesn't matter if it's 50, misty and windy (ok, sure, rather tricky conditions) or 72 and calm (dude, you can do this). So, yeah, there's a bit of OCD, but who hasn't struggled at one time or another to figure out how to best dress for the conditions?
Four factors come into play when considering how to dress for the elements:
I attempted to make an easy to read chart depicting all of this, but that didn't work out too well. My wife is good at that stuff, so maybe I'll have one in the future.
Also, keep in mind that I am not you. My preferences may be different. You may like to bundle up for a 60 degree run, and that's cool. Consider these recommendations as a general starting point.
The most obvious concern while dressing for a run is temperature. Generally after 15 minutes of running you will feel as though it's at least 15 degrees warmer out than when you started. It may be chilly as you stand around waiting for your running buddy to get a satellite signal on her Garmin, but you'll regret carrying the extra sweatshirt later. (Ya hear me, Linda?)
Lower Body - Above 40 degrees I'm wearing shorts. Exceptions would be for slow recovery runs or perhaps warming up for a race. Below 40, definitely tights or pants. In that awkward 40-50 degree zone, I let the other factors listed above dictate my decision. For example, shorts for a high intensity run, but pants for an slow jog.
Upper Body – Above 50 degrees I'm wearing a short sleeve top. Exceptions would be for slow recovery runs or perhaps warming up for a race when I'd choose a light windbreaker. From 40-50 degrees it's a lightweight long sleeve shirt and below 40 I'm wearing a jacket. Personally, I don't like to feel restricted so I hardly ever choose a heavy, bulky jacket. The colder it gets I'll layer up with a thin base layer, a thicker long sleeved shirt and a wind resistant jacket.
If the wind is blowing over 10 mph I'll tend to wear a wind resistant jacket if it's under 40 degrees or a vest if it's 40-55. People seem to have differing opinions about how to structure a run when it's windy. I prefer to suck it up and run into the wind at the start and earn a nice finish with the wind at my back. While running with a tailwind you'll feel very warm, though, so make sure you can adjust your gear appropriately.
45-60 degrees I'm going with a base layer, rain jacket, shorts and a hat. Under 50 it's tights, no shorts. The thing about rain is that, unless it's also windy, you can still heat up if you're wearing a rain jacket – so make sure the jacket has zippered ventilation. 30-40 degrees and rain = no fun. Layer it up! Maybe put some dry socks in your jacket pocket for a change at the halfway point.
A hard run or race makes a huge difference in how I dress. I'll dress as though it's 20 degrees warmer and I'll be more concerned with feeling unrestricted. I might even choose arm warmers and a tank top for a long distance race that starts at 40 degrees, but will warm up to 50. They're great to just roll down and use as a sort of wristband if you get hot. When it's cold I just have to trust that after 15-20 minutes I will be comfortable.
Conversely, as I've already mentioned, a low intensity run might just make it OK to dress up a little more .
This factor probably has the least effect on what to wear, but if you're going to be out for several hours it's possible the weather will change during the course of the run. Again, layers are the way to go. You can always strip if it gets warm or roll-up some arm warmers if you get chilly.
If you don't like what I have to say about it...