When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Into each life some rain must fall” in his romantically overwrought 1842 poem, The Rainy Day, he probably wasn’t lacing up his running shoes for a brisk jog through a deserted neighborhood.
Running in the rain is one of the simpler pleasures that runners relish.
If you’re just starting out, feeling tired of being stuck inside, or frowning at a race day weather report, read on for everything you need to know about wet weather running before you get out there.
Running in the Rain – Benefits and Motivation
As long as you’re not putting yourself in harm’s way by running through a lightning storm, zero-visibility monsoon, hailstorm, hurricane or tornado, you should absolutely get out there.
Here are some great reasons why:
Everybody has a persistent voice that repeats “you shouldn’t,” or “you can’t.” Sometimes it’s an actual person. Sometimes it’s an inner voice. Other times, that’s the voice of so-called common sense. This time, that voice is reminding you that you’ll get wet if you run out there. You will. So what? If you want to run, it’ll take more than a little rain to stop you.
Rain reduces your body temperature as you run, which can help you stay cool while also increasing your metabolic rate. Rain also forces minor changes to your form to avoid slipping, which can work your muscle groups differently than a usual run. You might also find that the splashy exhilaration of a wet run, combined with your desire to get back, can be natural motivators for a quicker pace.
Think of how good you usually feel after a run. Now double it. It’s not just that you’ll have a nice hot shower waiting on you, although that will be amazing. You’ll also feel more energized and accomplished than most people ever do on a dreary day. And you’ll be that much more inclined to tackle everything else with the mindset of somebody who won’t let a little rain bother them.
If the above reasons aren’t enough to convince you to go for a rainy run, consider this last one: it’s worth a try. If you do it with an open mind and find out you prefer a treadmill, at least you’ll know.
What to Wear When Running in the Rain
Running in the rain carries the same promise you’re likely to see on a sign in front of an amusement park log flume ride.
“You will get wet.”
No matter what you wear, or what gear you bring for a run in the rain, you’ll finish wetter than you started. Temper your expectations. Ask, “What should I wear to run in the rain more comfortably?” Instead of, “How do I stay dry while running in the rain?”
Try the following:
If your usual route is fairly road heavy and has good drainage, a pair of waterproof trail running shoes might serve you best. But keep in mind that any water that gets into a waterproof shoe tends to stay there – a mesh option might not keep your foot totally dry, but it will prevent it from getting waterlogged. Many people choose to simply wear an older pair for rain runs. If your second-oldest pair of running shoes is truly past its prime, it might be time to rotate in a new top pair.
Stay away from cotton, as it soaks up water and constricts. What you want is a nice pair of running socks made of synthetic, moisture-wicking material. If you’re planning on a long run, bring an extra pair or two in a plastic baggie.
Just as cotton socks can make your life worse, so can a regular cotton t-shirt. You’ll want a form-fitting, man made material that’ll prevent clinging. Consider bright colors or reflective options that can enhance visibility.
If you’re looking for an extra layer of protection, enlist a light, breathable option made of quick-dry or weatherproof fabric. Some distance racers just go for an easily disposable poncho or even a trash bag when confronted with a rainy forecast on race day.
As a general rule, the less flowy your rain-running apparel, the better. Seek out form-fitting, synthetic, and lightweight options that won’t sop up moisture.
All you really need is a baseball hat with a brim to keep the water out of your eyes, although a quick-dry runner’s hats will last longer without shrinking.
Especially over prolonged distances, extra moisture will put you at greater risk for chafing and blistering in areas where it’s frequently an issue. Prepping for a rainy run with vaseline, balm or powder can make a bigger difference than any apparel choice other than avoiding cotton.
If you’re planning on running anywhere other than your home and back, you’ll definitely thank yourself for packing an extra dry set of clothing. And remember to remove your rainy day gear as soon as possible after you’re done.
Tips for Running in the Rain
Once you get out there, what should you do? What do you need to do differently in the rain?
Remember the following:
As mentioned already, there are weather conditions to avoid running in. Check your local weather forecast for key words like “severe,” “warning,” “watch,” or “advisory.” If these conditions are present, wait until you have a more favorable window to complete your run.
More moisture means more friction. Use Vaseline or balm in the usual spots – thighs, nipples, etc. – to prevent chafing. If you’re planning a longer run, you may also want to powder your feet before you start.
Not only is it harder to see runners in the rain, most people aren’t even looking. Choose high-visibility apparel options, and wear a baseball cap or visor to keep the rain out of your own eyes.
If you run with your phone, earbuds, or other electronics, look for waterproof options, or go DIY with a baggie in a zip-up pocket or fanny pack.
Water makes most surfaces more slippery. If you’re running in an older pair of running shoes, make sure they still have adequate tread. Modify your stride length and cadence to shorter, quicker steps.
Towel your running shoes off, pack them with paper, and/or throw them in the dryer on the gentlest setting for 20 minutes when you’re done running. Letting your running shoes sit for too long when they’re soaked will age them prematurely.
Depending on the temperature, running in cold rain can lead to hypothermia once you stop moving. Hang your wet clothes when you’re done with them, and remember to wash and dry them before wearing them next.
And while the above pointers are a great starting place for your first foray into all-weather running, we’d be remiss if we left off a crucial detail.
If you like to listen to music while you run, don’t forget to program your own special rainy run playlist.
Additional Tips for Rainy Racing
You registered. Trained for months. Prepared. You’re in the best shape of your life. This is it. Your first marathon.
And the weather report is looking… wet.
Don’t worry. Running a marathon in the rain and wind is only a little more difficult than running a marathon on a perfect sunny day. You’ve worked too hard to stop now.
Even if you’re not running 26.2 miles, remember the following rainy race pointers:
A waterproofing fabric spray can go a long way toward keeping your feet dry and blister-free on race day. Just make sure you leave enough time for the spray itself to dry, at least 24 hours before your race.
Bring multiple pairs of dry socks, an extra pair of running shoes, an easily disposable poncho or plastic bag, a full change of dry clothes, a towel, baggies to keep any electronics dry, etc. There’s no such thing as overprepared. You can Leave whatever you don’t need at the start, or drop it off at a watering station if conditions change throughout the race.
Try warming up in an old pair of running shoes and then start with a fresh pair you’ve kept dry. Do the same for your rain-ready apparel. Make sure you’ve taken extra steps to prevent chafing (see above).
So there you have it. Running in the rain is as simple as shedding your inhibitions, making a few extra preparations, and toughing it out.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Into each life some rain must fall.” Might as well make the most of it.