How To Handle Rain On Race Day

You pull back the curtains on race day to see... grey skies and rain! As a runner, it’s more than likely that the forecast won’t be on your side for some races. However, this doesn’t have to put a dampener on your performance. Check out our top tips for racing in the rain and remember, after all, skin is waterproof!

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Dress to be drenched!

Clothing choices become even more important when it’s wet. The trick is to wear enough layers to stay warm, yet not so many that once wet they begin to weigh you down. For this reason it’s best to opt for light, technical fabric that helps to wick moisture from your skin. If it’s a particularly dark and dull day you may also want to consider wearing something to ensure that you are easily visible, particularly if you are sharing a road with traffic.

A good cap with a brim is definitely a rainy race day must have as it helps to keep the rain out of your face. If it’s particularly cold and windy then you may even consider running in a rain jacket, as the elite runners did during the 2018 Boston Marathon.

Footwear is key

Whatever the surface that you are racing on in the rain, your choice of footwear is key in terms of optimising your performance and reducing the risk of injury. Rain can significantly affect the terrain, particularly if you are racing off-road so you may need to consider wearing longer spikes for cross country races or trail shoes with studs for enhanced grip and traction.

If you are racing on the road then just be mindful that the grip on racing flats tends to be inferior to that of normal mileage shoes so it may be a case of weighing up the pros and cons of lighter shoes versus less grip. There’s nothing worse than having soggy feet before you even start a race so it can be a good idea to wear an old pair of shoes to the start and then change into your racing shoes relatively last minute.

Grease up

Blisters and unwanted chaffing are all too common a problem in wet weather. Be sure to spare yourself from some miserable miles by applying some Vaseline to any areas at risk prior to starting.

Stay warm and dry for as long as possible before the start

When it’s raining, the very worst thing that you can do is to arrive at the start line cold, wet and miserable. You can guarantee that your muscles and performance won’t thank you for it.

Wear some additional clothing to the start line such as an old jacket or even a bin liner...

It sounds obvious but if possible try to stay in the dry for as long as possible before the start of the race. The type of shelter available usually depends on the nature and location of the race but you may be able to make use of the race HQ, a nearby café or a sports centre for example. When it’s finally time to brave the elements it can be a good idea to wear some additional clothing to the start line such as an old jacket or even a bin liner that you don’t mind discarding.

Watch your step!

Remember that seemingly innocuous things become more slippery in the wet; painted lines on roads and pavements, drain covers, leaves and stones suddenly become lethal and leave you fighting for your balance! If possible try to keep your gaze on the ground ahead so you can identify any hazards before they are under your feet.

Forget about times and just race!

When racing on a rainy day, it’s important to be realistic; your finish time may be adversely affected. With this in mind you should focus on the process rather than the outcome. It can be helpful to forget about splits and finish times and to just enjoy the process of racing.

Keep some dry kit at the finish

It sounds obvious but a little bit of forward planning goes a long way in unfavourable weather conditions. Make sure that you have access to some warm and dry kit close to the finish, whether that’s in a car or at the race’s baggage storage facility or HQ.

It’s best to get changed post-race as quickly as possible to keep your muscles warm and to prevent any further dip in immune function that occurs after a hard effort. Having a towel or two to hand is always really useful; one for drying yourself off but two for sitting on in the car on the way home if you’re particularly muddy!

Train in the rain!

It can be all too tempting to be a ‘fair weather’ runner at times and avoid going out in the rain or delaying a training run so that you can get out in the dry. Whilst, at times, this can be a sensible option, it’s also good to get out when the weather isn’t too favourable as you never know what conditions you’ll face on race day. Although it’s not too much fun at the time, there’s a lot to be said for psychologically preparing yourself for a race in the rain.