This is not fashion advice. But if you want to be comfortable and not have clothing be a hindrance to your best effort, I have a few words of advice to impart.
For more general advice about the NYC Marathon, read this.
Once you've finished this article and decided what to wear, pack into one giant bag every single thing you need on race morning - right now - this includes your gels, your watch - every single thing - and then you add the bib and chip when you get it. You think you're anxious now? You'll be out of your mind at 4:45 am on race day, and in no position to hunt for any must-have items buried in your closet.
[[Have you thought as much about your diet as you have about your clothing? Read What To Eat in the Week Before the NYC Marathon.]]
The most important thing is what you wear closest to your skin; the weather should not impact this choice. Avoiding chafing is the top priority. You should wear on your body whatever you wore during your successful long runs. Not merely the same type of outfit, the VERY SAME OUTFIT. The only way you can be sure the t-shirt/shorts/socks/jock/underwear/bra is suitable for you to run 26 miles in is if you have worn the exact pieces on an 18+ mile run before. (As I note below, I often change the shirt closest to my skin during the race, so you may need several trusty t-shirts).
With your primary outfit chosen, now you need to figure out the outer layers, to deal with the weather.
Whatever the forecast, the early morning wait on Staten Island and on the Verrazano Bridge before the start will be very, very cold - 35 to 50 degrees, windy, you not moving much for several hours, on the waterfront - did I say very, very, very cold? Even after reading this, you'll say on Monday, "I didn't think it would be THAT cold."
You also need to know that, even if you check a bag, you have to turn it in at least an hour before you start. Once you give that bag up, you are left with (i) the outfit you plan to run most of the race in, (ii) additional layers that will accompany you for parts of the journey, (ii) throwaway clothes and blankets.
Think of yourself as the Space Shuttle, fully laden at launch and jettisoning superfluous parts as you go.
Generally for this race, I don't wear anything on my legs other than a pair of shorts. If your legs tend to get cold, you may decide to add a pair of tight sweats/capris for your whole journey. My personal choice, when I add anything beside shorts, is an Under Armour thigh-hugging bottom you wear under your shorts that extends half way down your thigh; you'll be taking a chance on wearing something new close to your skin, but I can't imagine them causing you a problem, especially if you wash and dry them once first.
If you're going shorts only, you should consider having a pair of throwaway sweats/long underwear / pajama pants (my personal choice) / Tylek pants (on sale at the Expo) to wear after you dump your post-race bag, up on to the Bridge, and even for the first 2-3 miles, till you warm up - at the apex of the Verrazano Bridge, you will be 230 feet in the air, with harbor winds blowing, and you'll not be warmed up at all. COLD!!
For the upper body, I always wear a large singlet with my race number and nickname written on it as my outer layer.
For most races, I start wearing two t-shirts and the singlet, and, just for the run on the Verrazano, a large shirt over all of it. Of course, if it's very cold, you may need more, like a light sweatshirt.
Once I got over the bridge, I lose the outer t-shirt.
If things heat up, at some point around 6-13, I take off everything, toss the first (sweatiest) layer, put back on the middle t-shirt, and then the singlet.
At the halfway point, I meet my family, and perhaps put on another fresh t-shirt closest to my skin, then the singlet. I can't tell you how good it feels to take off a soaked shirt and replace it with a dry one when you have two hours yet to go. Sure, this is easier for guys to do, but most gal runners I know are quite comfortable stripping down to a sports bra.
Write your name on your outer shirt! Better yet, write a nickname that you are fond of. If your name is Kelly, you'll hear thousands of shouts for Kelly, will never know if they're for you, and they won't be very enthusiastic. On the other hand, if your nickname is Twinkle Toes, then you'll know the shouts are for you, and they'll be enthusiastic. Or just write something funny or inspiring on your shirt - the crowd will engage you.
It probably won't be so cold that you need a ski-cap, but a head band covering your ears will likely be useful. I don't wear gloves - I wear white sweat socks on my hand, so my fingers can touch each other.
BE PREPARED FOR DRASTIC CHANGES
Now comes the most critical part of my advice.
The weather may warm up by mid-race, causing you to toss your hat, gloves and extra shirt – and then clouds or wind may very well cause temps to plunge in the later miles, leaving you unbearably freezing. Consider keeping a shirt wrapped around your waist, and at the very least an extra pair of gloves and a head warmer in your pocket, or have a spectator available to meet you with them in the later miles. A friend gave me this advice based on his run in NYC, when he thought he might drop out because he tossed his gloves and his hands nearly froze. A month later, I ran Philly, and it was 26 at the start, warmed up nicely, and I tossed everything, only to find myself running along the river with fingers that were painfully cold, threatening my ability to continue - then I realized I had heeded his advice and had a spare pair of socks in my back pocket, saving the day.
In a worst case scenario, ask someone in the crowd to give you gloves or a hat – believe it or not, someone will.
POST RACE CELEBRATION
After the race, you will not go back to your room and sleep. You will be buzzing with adrenaline, and will want to celebrate and talk about your great achievement. These three clients are rolling out the welcome mat for marathon runners:
- Tir na nog Times Square at 315 W. 39th St., just west of 8th Ave. - is a terrific upscale Irish pub with terrific food and beers. It is an utterly spectacular space that accommodates groups very well, and has no stairs. Call (212) 760-0072 to reserve your spot or reserve on Open Table.
- Beer Authority at 40th and 8th is a four-level (with an elevator!) restaurant with 101 craft beer taps, outstanding pub food, plenty of space for groups, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Times Square, and a (heated) rooftop Beer Garden Patio. Call