I have been training for the Marine Corps Marathon (my 1st) for months and I thought I was all set … and now the weather report is saying there’s a good chance of rain! Help! How do I prepare to be out there running for 5+ hours cold and soaking wet? Do I look for clothing that repels water, or will that just make sweating/chafing even worse? What do runners wear in the rain? Is there a rainy day strategy for marathoning?
–Thank you, Andy
As if marathon tapering isn’t hard enough without a Frankenstorm threat on top of it! I feel for you and everyone tapering on down to the Marine Corps Marathon. The good news is there are many strategies you can employ to run and race in the rain.
Here are my favorite tips…
- Invest in a large trash compactor garbage bag and punch a hole for your head in the bottom (very important). Consider it a Halloween costume and a solid way to stay dry pre-race. Or, you can go with a smaller cinch bag for a better look and style – I once ran half a marathon in a white bag to stay dry (with armholes of course).
- Wear a hat with a visor to keep the rain out of your eyes and a pair of running gloves that you can easily stuff into your shorts if your hands get too hot. Accessorize with a shower cap for the start to complete your costume (looks funny but keeps your head dry, at least for the start!).
- Wear a lightweight waterproof jacket like the Marmot Precip to keep you dry and still offer breathability. There are a lot of waterproof breathable jackets out there in the lightweight category. If you’re going to try something new for race day, this would be a good way to go. That, or wear the white garbage bag to keep your core dry (as you can always remove this as you run). Since the temperatures look to be the same Saturday, you could test out the jacket combo and see if it’s too much – if it is, go with the garbage bag and a long sleeve top. Everybody’s body is different and what works for me may not for you. I tend to run cold, especially in the rain – while my friend runs in shorts even in the snow.
- Run like Robin Hood. There are a lot of options and if there are in fact high winds, cold and rain, I’d go with long tights. If it is rainy and in the 50s, a pair of capris/knickers can work well or shorts if your body runs warm. Again, go with what works for you. It is important to dress for the temperatures, not just the rain to avoid overheating.
- Lube Up. When I was adventure racing through the never-ending wet jungles of Borneo and Fiji, I used an inexpensive product called Bag Balm. It seals your feet and aids in preventing blisters and your feet from pruning in the wet conditions. Lube your body for chafing and in the event of a mid-racing chafing incident, stop at medical and lube again with Vaseline.
- Pack several instant heat packs for your hands and core. If you suffer from cold hands and body temperature in these conditions, having heat packs inside your gloves keeps them warm for the duration. Pack a few extra for pre-race to keep warm in the coral and for post-race to keep you warm at a time when your body core temp can easily drop.
- Pack That Bag. Pack warm, dry clothes, socks, thermal hat and shoes in your gear check bag with a small umbrella and a towel. Include a few garbage bags to put your wet race clothes in post-race. Right after you finish change and slap that heat wrap on your back to avoid getting chilled and hypothermic.
- Dry It Out. When you arrive home or at the hotel, remove the soles of your running shoes and stuff your shoes with newspaper or paper towel to dry.
Being prepared will help you get through race day more comfortably. Other tips that can help include:
- Run Strong. Running by effort rather than pace as a headwind changes everything. Avoid getting caught up in finishing for a specific pace – that can quickly get you off track for your goal to finish strong.
- Draft off other runners. Consider it a social opportunity and work together like cyclists on the course. If the wind is in front, run right behind another runner. If it is to the side, run just off their hip to the side. Work together like the elite runners do and trade-off leading and drafting. It’s a fun, social way to run through a tough day.
Take what the day gives you and run for the win. When elite runners toe the line they are on a mission to win. They know their estimates times, but at the end of the day, it’s all about beating out the competition. Race for the strongest performance on that day. For first-timers, that means finishing. For seasoned runners, that means finishing strong all the way through. Sometimes that turns out to be a personal best and other times it is a slower time with a great story. Go with what the day brings.