Friday, April 1, 2016


With very rare exceptions, every single photo you'll ever see of me running has one thing in common.

Ok, my ugly mug with a "kill me now" expression is probably in there.

Or something even dorkier.

But no matter what the weather, I'm always wearing a hat with a brim.

Even when it's buried under 3 layers because it's -28c out.

I see people running bare-headed or wearing a headband, visor or tube-type thing (like this) and wonder if they know what they're missing.

For starters, unless it's coming down sideways, it'll keep rain or snow off your face. I was out running last night in a torrential thunderstorm with 50+kph winds, but my face was almost completely dry when I got home. The rest of me may have been dripping - I mean I was forming puddles just trying to get my shoes off - but my face was protected. More importantly, my eyes were kept safe from the deluge of rain that would have robbed me of my ability to see properly as I ran through the tempest. I've run in freezing rain, hail (ow), ice pellets and snow, and in every case I've been happy to have that peak on my hat keeping all of that stuff out of my face.

Well, happier than I would have been otherwise.

Depending on the hat, it may just help keep the rest of your head warmer and drier, too. In rainy conditions under 10c/50f, I use a Saucony Velocity running cap I won as 1st woman in the Open Kilted Division at the Cambridge Highland Games Kilted 8k back in 2011. It's made of a windproof woven polyester fabric with a DWR coating to make it water resistant, and while that's far from waterproof it does shed light rain quite well. It's breathable, but has no mesh or ventilation holes so it does help trap some body heat in cooler weather without making you overheat.

If I need additional warmth, I'll usually add an earband, winter hat, tube thing worn as a hood, or some combination of these over the base of the peaked cap. 

Sometimes "All of the above"

Because I have a tiny head, the brim of the cap keeps the front of any additional headwear from falling down over my face with forseeably unpleasant consequences.

That brim comes in handy in heavy winds, too - if I'm running into something particularly awful, I can drop my head to keep my eyes from tearing up (also helps with sideways rain/sleet/snow/ice pellets). I don't recommend running with your head down for too long, but it's always an option if you've got that big old beak there for you.

It's not like I'm aerodynamic anyway.

In nicer weather, the hat still serves several functions. Having done experiments going hatless in hot weather, I find the wicking action of a good running hat helps keep my head cooler and drier than relying on air circulation to keep sweat at bay. I like Brooks HVAC mesh running hats for anything warmer than 10c/50f - they're lightweight and wick moisture incredibly well. I've been using one since at least spring of 2010, and it's still going strong. It also - and this is a big deal - is sufficiently adjustable via the velcro strap to fit my tiny, tiny little head yet has enough length to accommodate quite a large skull as well.

This one, pictured just a few weeks ago on a training run along the Grand River.

Not only does all that sweat not hang around in my hair, it's not dripping down into my eyes, either. That is probably one of the best reasons to make sure you wear something on your head while running, and the internal sweatband of a hat looks a heck of a lot less dorky than a sweatband across your melon. For those who protest that a tube-type head wrap does the same thing, I very rarely see them worn low enough on your forehead to stop the sweat that beads there from rolling down into your eyes.

These are not appealing alternatives.

The other rather important thing that brim will keep out of your eyes is the sun. My eyes are pretty sun-sensitive, but I learned long ago that I don't much like wearing sunglasses to run: they fog up, slide down your nose, make you even sweatier than you would be already, and seem to trap humid, stagnant air against my eyes. With a peaked cap, unless the sun is very low in the sky, I get the benefit of some shade without any of those issues.

Seems like a good deal to me.

You can even move the brim if the sun is coming in from the side, as long as you don't mind looking like a bit of a knob.

Another advantage that a cap has over a headband or even a visor is that it prevents sunburn on the top of your head. Even those of us with full, luxurious heads of hair have probably experienced a burn on the top of their skull at a part line at some point, to say nothing of those who may be thinning a bit on top. It's one place we almost never think to apply sunblock, but can result in a painful burn or worse consequences with long-term repeated exposure.

This is not by any means limited to running.

Though I do have different hats for the backcountry.

For that matter, I'm pretty bad at remembering to apply sunblock at all, so having a bit of extra shade on my face is a good deal, too. In a triathlon, I've often either swum or sweated off any sunscreen I did manage to apply (since "waterproof and sweatproof" are often relative terms), so it makes sense to wear a hat on the run course to protect myself from what is often mid-day sun - I leave it with my running shoes in transition and pop it on my head while running, so it doesn't really take any additional time.

The last advantage to wearing a hat is that it can literally save your life by increasing your visibility when you're out running. One of my all-time favourite warm-weather hats is the one pictured below, also made by Brooks:

Doing a lovely job of shading my eyes.

It really has everything. Being white, it reflects a lot of the sun's heat, and it's made of sweat-wicking materials that help keep me dry. Huge mesh panels on the sides allow me to dump heat, but the very top is a woven fabric that will shed a bit of rain. The brim has big holes punched out of the internal stiffening plastic to make it light weight, and it's covered in large patches of fluorescent yellow and retroreflective fabric. It's highly visible during both the day and night while being very comfortable to wear - I hardly even notice it's there.

One last note on visbility: if I'm feeling extra cautious and running in low light or poor weather, a hat gives me a perfect spot to clip on a flashing light. It's higher up, so can be seen at a greater distance than shoe lights or something on a belt, and I never have to worry about chafing from clipping it to my shirt or waistband, or having it on a strap of some kind. That Saucony hat I talked about above? It actually comes with a USB-rechargeable LED light that clips on to a purpose-built sleeve on the hat.

The reflective strip around the brim helps, too.

You can, of course, use the light on other stuff, too...or you can just clip a different light (I like the RoadID Supernova) onto any hat you happen to like.

So that's why, with a few rare exceptions in which I either stupidly forget or simply elect to wear a headband instead (generally regretting it within minutes), whenever you see me out trotting down a trail or puffing my way along a road, the smile I'll be giving you will be peering out from under a brim.

No need to keep that under your hat.

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