Running in the RAIN

Unless you live in the desert, you're going to experience rain from time to time. If like me, you live in the Northern Hemisphere or other temperate climate zone you may experience rain a lot of the time. In particular in Winter months.

So, if you're training for a race, there will very likely be several occasions when you just have to suck-it-up and get out and run in the rain. Or risk missing valuable training time.

With the right mindset and kit choices - running in the rain should not be a problem - and it can even be fun.

There are different kinds of rainy weather though and different ways to approach running in some of them.

If it's raining when my run is scheduled, I pretty much always just lace-up and get out there. Though there are some exceptions when I consider it to be too dangerous and I would not risk it. These are:

  • Freezing rain. This is a strange weather phenomenon that occurs when the surfaces that the rain falls onto is much colder than the rain itself. Resulting in the rain instantly freezing. When this happens on a road or pavement it makes them lethally slippery and impossible to run or even walk on.
  • During an electrical storm. If there's lightning flying about you should be indoors or inside a faraday cage. Being struck by lightning will either kill you or change your life forever and not in a good way. You don't need to take a direct hit either, as the wet ground is a good electrical conductor. If lightning starts when you're mid-run - get yourself indoors or inside a car/vehicle ASAP! Don't dawdle - keep running until you get to safety.
  • Extremely high winds. There are several risk factors involved with high winds. Being struck by something tossed into the air by the wind. Or by a falling object toppled by the wind - like a tree, heavy branch or chimney pot. Or you yourself can get blown off your feet. Not to mention the fact that running into strong wind makes life very difficult and you expend way more energy than necessary. And can get blinded by dust and other small particles, hitting your face at high speed.
  • High heat & humidity. The combination of heat and humidity can be at best debilitating and at worst lethal. Cramps, exhaustion, and heatstroke are no fun. So, if it's very hot and the relative humidity is way above 40% (which it would be if it was raining). I'd skip the run outside and jump on a treadmill or do some cross-training in an air-conditioned gym. 

Apart from being able to maintain your training consistency and fitness. There are other rewards associated with getting out and running in all weathers. 

Like being extra smug, when you chat with your running buddies and realise that you were the only one that toughed it out and got out for a run in the rain. Yep, not wimping out at the first sign of precipitation can earn you some run-crew bragging rights. 

Besides, if you never get out in the wet, you'll never get to see any rainbows when you're running. And when you're running in a beautiful scenic setting, that can be a truly uplifting, inspiring, and dare I say magical experience. 

If the very thought of running in a deluge of rain gives you sleepless nights. Then read on for my top tips to get yourself primed and geared up to trot in torrential downpours, and transform your rainy run nightmare into a wet dream! 

To help you get the most out of your training on wet weather days. I've collated my best rainy day running advice below:

Coach D's 15 Top Tips for running in the Rain

Visibility

Dress bright - to dress right!

Heavy rain reduces visibility, which means you won't be able to see as well - probably more importantly others won't be able to see you easily either. It's best to wear something bright so that you stand out and drivers can notice you at a reasonable distance.

Unless you have a hankering to resemble a squashed hedgehog. In which case wear grey or asphalt coloured kit - that should do the trick...

Protect your glasses

If you go running in the rain with glasses on, then there's a good chance that they will steam up or get spattered in raindrops. Making it harder for you to see where you are going or where you're placing your feet.

There are various anti-fog treatments available. From wipes, sprays, cleaning fluids, and lens treatments. But most of the glasses wearers I've spoken to say that none of them work particularly well.

So, if you have them or can tolerate them - contact lenses are a much better option than wearing glasses for running in the rain.

If you can't stand poking your fingers in your eyes to apply contact lenses (I'm with you on that one!). Wearing a running cap with a peak/visor can help to keep the rain off your glasses. 

You don't need to be a prescription glasses wearer to benefit from this tip either. As it may well apply for those occasions when the weather is changeable. By which I mean sunny with the occasional shower. So you may need to protect your sunglasses from raindrops too.

Wet weather kit choices

Hat

Even if you don't wear glasses plonking a decent waterproof, breathable peaked cap on your head is a good idea. As it can help keep driving rain out of your eyes, keep your hair dry and your head warm in cold/winter weather. 

I keep my hair very short, mainly because I'm bald. So, I wear a running cap all year round not just in the rain. It helps protect my sensitive scalp from UV rays too. Not surprisingly I have several caps in my kit line-up. All are breathable, but only a few are also waterproof. 

Waterproof and breathable jacket

A little obvious perhaps - but this is the most important piece of kit for running in the rain. Ideally, it should be:

  • Waterproof
  • Windproof
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight

A good rain jacket for running has to strike a good balance between

Waterproofing and Breathability

Gloves

In the Winter months, your extremities can suffer in the cold. My hands in particular grumble, if it's raining. Being wet and moving them back and forth whilst running just sucks the heat out of them. wind chill.

I've recently bought a pair of waterproof gloves which are ace. Not sure why it took me so long to get some.

Socks

There are waterproof socks available on the market too. Most are made from neoprene (wetsuit material). I've not tried them myself, but I know runners who have, and they swear by them. Sealskinz is one of the most well-known and highly recommended brands available.

Shoes 

Many runners wear old running shoes in the rain - so as not to "spoil" their newer ones. Personally, I think that's a mistake, as the soles may be too worn to be safe in wet weather conditions.

A decent pair of shoes with good grip are a must. Surface water on roads and mud on trails make things quite slippy underfoot. So the risk of a foot sliding away from you on a run is increased.

Be aware of your surroundings and go carefully/slow down on technical terrain. Especially downhill sections.

When running in towns/cities be wary of manhole/drain covers. These metallic monsters can be lethal in the wet. In particular, those that are worn smooth by traffic. It doesn't even have to be raining. I've even slipped on one when the cover itself was dry - but my shoes were wet having run across some wet grass!

You can also get waterproof running shoes. Usually with gore-tex uppers. Which means they're also breathable. Many top brands have gore-tex/waterproof versions of many of their popular shoes available to buy. Though usually at a higher price point. They're a worthwhile investment in my opinion. 

I'm quite partial to getting at least one pair of waterproof trail shoes on my shoe rack. As even when it's not raining, trails can be wet and muddy. A decent pair of waterproof shoes will help keep your tootsies snug and dry all year round.

Layering

Getting your layers right is important, as you don't want to overheat. Windproof/waterproof jackets can get quite toasty when your running in them. As they trap your body heat inside.

Taking off your waterproof jacket to remove excess layers in the pouring rain will negate wearing it in the first place. 

I keep my layers to a minimum when I go for a run with a rain jacket on. Even in winter I very rarely have more than one layer beneath a jacket. I prefer to wear a hat and put a buff on my neck to help keep warm.

It takes a bit of practice to get to know how many layers are best for you. My advice is to wear less than you think you need initially and experiment on shorter runs until you're confident about your choices.

Wicking fabrics

All running gear that you wear should be technical wicking fabrics. This will help get your sweat away from your body in warmer weather to keep you cool. But they also help keep you comfortable in colder weather too.

Technical fabrics will dry much quicker as well. So if the rain does stop and you get a chance to take off your waterproof jacket, any sweat absorbed by the clothes beneath can evaporate more readily.

Chaffing 

Wet clothes will increase the potential for chafing. So apply some vaseline or other proprietary lubrication (like body glide) to any places that tend to rub.

Inner thighs are a classic point. Along with your butt crack and feet. Again experience will help you to get to know what rubs and where you need to apply some lubricant.

Protect your gadgets 

Make sure your running watch is waterproof to ISO 2281 standard as a minimum.

Stow anything else (phone, mp3 player, etc) in a waterproof pouch or bag. There are plenty of options available to choose from. 

But in all honesty - you don't need anything fancy. I regularly just slide my phone into a simple plastic sandwich or freezer bag before putting it in a jacket pocket or bumbag. It does the trick and I've never experienced any leakage or damaged tech.

Change out of wet clothes quickly

Again this is more of an issue in colder weather/winter months than when it's warm. But if it is cold, hanging around in wet clothes can be uncomfortable at best and could lead to hypothermia at worst.

So, do yourself a favour. Dump your soggy kit in the washing machine and jump in a nice warm shower as soon as you can.

Taking some spare dry clothes in a kit bag to any race is also a good idea - along with a towel. Even if there are no showers available, at least you can towel yourself down and change into dry kit before heading home.

Dry your shoes properly

What to do with your wet shoes - stuff them with paper and let them air dry.

Don't whatever you do put them in the tumble dryer. The heat can adversely affect the adhesives in them. That's a sure-fire way to reduce their useful life and risk them falling apart mid-run.

Mental toughness 

Running a marathon in the rain and wind can be both physically and mentally challenging. If you don't believe me - you can ask anyone that ran the Boston marathon in 2018!

You never know what the weather will throw at you come race day. Getting out in all weathers (with the exceptions noted at the beginning of this article) is good for developing mental toughness. And demonstrating to yourself that you can do it.

You don't want a race to be your first/only experience of running in the rain. Much better that it's a situation you've dealt with before. So, don't be a wet-weather-wimp and get yourself outdoors and running in the rain. Embrace the experience as something that could well be preparing you to shine in a rain-soaked race scenario.

But equally - there's no need to be a martyr - if you find running in the rain a miserable experience and you have access to a treadmill. Opt for that occasionally. In particular, if that will make the difference between running and not running. Go with whatever will keep your training schedule intact. Consistency in your training is a must.

Check the weather forecasts before your run

Keep an eye on the weather forecast too and be prepared to be flexible with your training plan. If you can, consider swapping your long run for a shorter run for a rainy day - if that means you avoid doing a much longer run in the rain and cold.

Will running in the rain make you sick? 

Yes & No or possibly maybe...

The rain itself won't make you ill, getting wet is generally harmless. But a sudden and sustained drop in body temperature can leave you more vulnerable to viruses. So keep warm and get out of your wet kit, get dry and warm as soon as possible when you get home.

More...

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Finally, I love to listen to music whilst I run in the rain - like this very aptly entitled track "Running in the Rain" by New Model Army - one of my favourite bands from my miss-spent youth. This was a track on their classic debut album released in 1984.

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About the author 

Coach D

Hi, I'm Dave. I'm a UK Athletics qualified and licensed Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF), Endurance Event Group Coach and Certified Running Technique Coach. I coach groups and individuals of all abilities both online and in person.I particularly enjoy coaching beginner and improver runners in the 40+ age range.I'm also a regular recreational runner and I've been competing in races from 5k to marathon distance for over 30 years.

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The Able Runner


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