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A guide to running in the rain

With the onset of spring, most runners in the U.S. are shedding warm layers as the temperatures increase. However, spring storms also sometimes mean runners have to deal with rain.

While it can be tempting to jump on a treadmill or forego a run altogether during a rainy day, there are good reasons to head outside for the run. Just a few days ago, the forecast called for a steady rain from zero dark thirty through 10 p.m.

When I awoke a little after 4 a.m., the radar indicated that the rain would start in about an hour. I recognized that as my window, so I rolled out of bed, got dressed, warmed up and headed out. The first two miles were dry, followed by three miles with light rain until it turned to more of a driving rain that continued well beyond when I ended with 7.7 total miles.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to run, and felt empowered after completing that one, especially as the temperatures in the low 40s made it a wet and cold run.

Here are some tips and reasons for embracing a run in the rain:

  1. Safety first: Before heading out, make sure to check your local radar to get a better idea of the conditions to expect. It is generally safe to run in the rain unless there is lightning, strong winds or other variables that make it more than a general rainstorm.

  2. Plan your route: Even if the conditions look acceptable when you leave, they can intensify quickly. Protect yourself by planning your route ahead of time and identifying spots along the way where you can find shelter quickly, just in case. These can be anything from a coffee shop, gas station, neighbor’s home, bridge underpass or other solid structures. When running on trails, this becomes more critical. Be prepared to find shelter more quickly because there are generally less options on trails.

  3. Dress appropriately: Dress warm since the rain will make any exposed skin cool or cold, depending on the temperature. Choose moisture-wicking fabrics such as a running jacket designed to withstand rain. Technology is incredible and has made it possible to wear uber light running jackets that protect the runner, keeping his or her core warm. My go-to is a jacket from Odlo that has kept my top dry on a number of runs in the rain. And a hat, good pair of socks and gloves will help keep your extremities warm.

  4. Prevent chafing: A combination of moisture and heat leads to friction, which causes chafing. It is especially likely to occur when the rain makes your clothes stick to your skin. I use Squirrel’s Nut Butter to protect chafing-prone areas.

  5. Increase visibility: Rain makes it more challenging for drivers. If you are heading out in low-visibility conditions, and/or heavy rain, it's important to make yourself clearly visible to drivers. To ensure that you can be seen choose reflective clothing and/or a headlamp during your runs.

  6. Refocus expectations: Understand that your performance may take a hit. The heavier the rain, especially when wind is a factor, will likely affect your performance. A rainstorm is not a good time to compare speed with another day, do a Yasso 800s workout or other form of speed work to be used as a comparison or barometer.

  7. Understand the impact: Even without setting a time trial PR in a rainy workout, you will reap the benefits in the tougher than normal conditions. The physical adaptation is part of it, but so is the mental game. When you finish a rainy run, you have demonstrated you can overcome tough challenges. And that is critical on race day — other than for some virtual races, we don’t choose what the weather will be on race day. Completing training runs in tough conditions builds our confidence to take on anything race day has in store for us.

  8. Watch your step: Be extra vigilant for slick paved areas or muddy trails. If you’re running on the roads, shorten your stride and slow your pace on downhills to avoid slipping. If you’re running on trails, watch out for mud, roots and rocks, all of which can be slippery.

  9. Smile through it: The run may be challenging but exuding positivity will help you conquer it. On a recent cold and rainy run, I thought about the joy that running gives me and smiled with intent on every mile. That made the run seem to go faster and helped me forget about the rain even as it intensified during the run.

  10. Dry your shoes: After your run is complete, be sure to dry your shoes. Do not put them in the dryer. The best option is to place newspaper or paper towels in your shoes to absorb the moisture. You can also place them in front of a fan or in a well-ventilated room.


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