Runners have been known to stalk the weather app on their phone as much—if not more—than their email or favorite social media channel in the days leading up to a big race.
What’s the weather going to be on race day? Will it be picture-perfect running temperatures for nailing a PR, or will it be hot and humid? Or, perhaps worse, will you race in the rain?
Although some runners find that a race in rain is almost preferable to a race on a hot day, others find that running a marathon in the rain or even a half marathon in the rain is about as unappealing as it gets.
Whichever side of the fence you land on, the good news is that there are tips you can use to make a race in the rain more enjoyable or at least less of a pain.
Therefore, while we have yet to find a way to control the weather, we can at least partially control our reactions to it and experience in it—at least in terms of running a race in the rain.
Keep reading for tips and tricks on how to race in the rain. We will cover:
- What to Wear When Running a Race In the Rain
- 10 Tips for How To Race In The Rain
Let’s jump in!
What to Wear When Running a Race In the Rain
There are two different scenarios you might encounter for running a race in the rain: running in warm rain and running in cold rain.
If you took a vote, the vast majority of runners would probably opt for running a race in rain on a warm day rather than running a race in cold rain.
Running a race in the rain on a warm day can be somewhat refreshing, whereas running in cold rain can quickly become a recipe for getting hypothermia if you aren’t properly dressed.
With that said, the temptation is often to bundle up excessively when it’s cold and rainy, but this can lead to overheating once the race gets underway.
Most waterproof and water-repellent clothing, such as rain jackets and rain pants, are not very breathable.
Instead, they trap heat, leaving you feeling wet from the rain on the outside and wet with sweat on the inside. Your clothing will be a soggy, heavy, hot mess.
Wear thin layers of sweat-wicking clothing that you can shed if you warm up once the race begins.
If it’s very cold and rainy, a waterproof shell isn’t a bad idea, but make sure you don’t have too many layers of clothing underneath.
An important note for racing a half marathon in the rain, or any race for that matter, is that you should pin your bib number on your shorts or tights rather than your top.
You might choose to remove your outer layer of clothing partway through the race, and you don’t want to have to worry about re-pinning your bib number.
On the other hand, when you are running a race in warm rain, it’s often a good idea to stick with just a very light singlet and skip the rain jacket altogether.
The rain jacket will trap too much heat, and if it’s much above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), you’ll probably overheat in the jacket once you start the race.
Instead, wear a light singlet and arm sleeves.
You might be slightly cold and uncomfortable the minutes before the race, but you’ll warm up quickly and will be glad you’re not stifling in a heat-trapping raincoat.
Stay dry on the starting line with a cheap, disposable poncho that you can ditch in the trash can when the gun goes off.
10 Tips for How To Race In The Rain
#1: Accessorize Smartly
When you are running a race in the cold rain, your choices in accessories are nearly as important as your choices in clothing.
Gloves, arm sleeves, an ear warmer, and a buff can all be great ways to add a little warmth and comfort to vulnerable areas of skin without making you particularly overheated and sweaty.
You can add or remove these items and stash them in your pockets as your temperature changes.
#2: Wear a Cap
Whether you are running a race in cold or warm rain, wearing a cap or visor is one of the best ways to keep the rain off of your face and out of your eyes so you can see.
This helps prevent the tendency to tuck your face and look straight down at the ground when running in the rain to keep the rain out of your eyes.
Proper running form involves having a neutral spine with your gaze straight ahead.
Choose a visor when it’s really hot out because it will still allow the top of your head to be open so that you can release heat.
#3: Use Body Glide
Even if you aren’t particularly prone to chafing, you certainly don’t want painful skin rubbing to befall you on race day. It’s hard enough to run a race in the rain, let alone trying to do so while battling burning skin.
When you run in the rain, your clothing may stick to your skin, and the friction between different areas of skin and material can cause extremely painful abrasions.
Use Body Glide, Vaseline, or another anti-chafing balm on vulnerable skin areas like your armpits, under your bra straps, and between your toes and inner thighs.
#4: Don’t Forget Your Nutrition
If you’re running a marathon in the rain, you can’t ditch your nutrition and hydration plan.
It’s normal to not feel as thirsty or hungry when running in the rain, so sometimes you have to be more deliberate and mindful with your in-race fueling plan.
Stay on top of your fueling and execute the exact same strategy you would if it wasn’t raining; your body still needs the fluids and calories.
In fact, if you’re shivering, you’ll burn through even more glycogen, so your carbohydrate needs can potentially increase by running a marathon in the rain. Bring extra fuel.
It can be hard to open energy gels with cold, puffy hands and with poorer dexterity; it can make it frustrating to get enough fuel in.
Consider whether you can transfer your nutrition to zip-lock bags that are easier to open.
#5: Adjust Your Warm-Up Routine
You still need to warm up for a race in the rain, but it’s usually a good idea to time your warm-up closer to the start.
You don’t want to get hot and sweaty and then sit around; your body temperature will plummet, and you can get hypothermic.
Time your warm-up so that you have just enough time afterward for a quick pit stop, a clothing change, a few strides, and then the bang of the starting gun.
#6: Stay Dry Before the Race
Many runners who want to know how to run a race in the rain focus solely on what to do once the gun goes off, but the pre-race experience in the rain is just as important.
If you don’t stay dry, you’ll not only feel miserable and unmotivated to run, but you can also get overly cold and tight.
Stay dry as much as possible—indoors or in your car.
Wear fully waterproof clothing and use an umbrella as you pick up your race number.
Wear completely different clothes for your warm-up (including running shoes and socks) that you can change out of before the race. Extra socks and running shoes are a must.
#7: Bring Plastic Bags
Plastic garbage bags or contractor bags are great for sitting around in the athlete’s village prior to the start of the race. You can also transform them into a poncho.
Smaller Ziploc plastic bags will keep your phone dry, and some runners have even been known to cover their running shoes in plastic shopping bags with elastic bands while they are waiting for the start of the race.
#8: Bring a Full Change Of Clothes
Make sure you have a completely dry outfit for after the race, particularly dry socks, shoes, and a top.
You will want to shed your wet layers to prevent hypothermia after the race.
#9: Call Upon Your Training
One of the best things you can do to prepare to run a race in the rain is to run in the rain during training.
Don’t shy away from running outside on rainy days, even when the treadmill may be beckoning to you.
Getting used to running in the rain during training will make it that much less of a surprise on race day. Plus, you’ll have road-tested strategies for the best gear to use and clothing to wear for maximal comfort.
#10: Recite a Positive Mantra
Mindset is key when you are running a race in the rain.
Recite a positive mantra like “I am tough,” “Rain makes me fly,” or “Rain is fresh.”
It’s all part of the joys and challenges of being a runner.
What if your race will be hot and humid instead? If so, check out our helpful tips on how to run in the humidity with our helpful guide: Running In Humidity: Why It’s Tougher + 10 Tips To Survive It