Ask-A-Salty: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Got questions? Just ask!
Got questions? Just ask!

Welcome back to our Ask-A-Salty feature, where you ask us questions and we give you the answers. If you have a question for us you can send it to us by clicking on “Ask-A-Salty” above the banner or by clicking here.

Today’s question came to us via Twitter. So, follow us on Twitter and you can also ask us questions there!

Anyway, here’s the question from TwinsRun, two of our favorite Salty readers who are planning to kick butt in Chicago this weekend. Here’s their question:

Any tips for running a marathon in the rain?

While the forecast for Chicago seems to have changed from soggy to dry and warm, this is a great question! You can control many aspects of your race day experience – how many miles you log, what you wear, what time you arrive on site – but you can’t control the weather. And I think most runners would agree – seeing a rainy forecast for your big race can make you feel anxious and awful.

Never fear – we’ve got a Salty Running Guide to Racing in the Rain for you! After all, you may not be able to control the weather, but you can prepare for it, if need be, and control how you handle it. Make PRs from raindrops, if you will!

Bring Your “A Game” in the Attitude Department

So you’re stalking the race day weather, and rain is in the forecast  – and not just scattered showers. We’ll talk about staying dry (or as dry as possible later), but the Numero Uno thing you should focus on is getting the right mindset. Don’t freak out. Remind yourself that you have run plenty of training runs (and maybe even other races) in the rain. Bringing your best positive mental attitude to the starting line will help immensely. If you toe the line convinced that your race is ruined and everything is awful and set on just ahem, blaming it on the rain, well… you’re setting yourself up to fail. One of my favorite quotes is from freediver Tanya Streeter: “Is your mind going to be your weapon or your weakness?” and I think it really applies here. (Check out Mint’s post on finding mental toughness for some inspiration.) Another quote to help you keep it all in perspective comes from our own dear Espresso: “After you’re wet, you don’t get any wetter.”

Screaming Bloody Nipples
Luckily sports bras will keep that from happening to us ladies, but it can happen to other parts in the rain, so lube ’em up! (Photo credit: Jeff Hester)

Keep the Chafing Under Control

To minimize rain-induced chaffing, your best bet is tight-fitting clothes; Spandex will be your friend on a rainy day! Ever see a guy running in a loose shirt on a rainy day? Bleeding nipples. Yep. That’s from the loose wet fabric scraping the nipples. No bueno! Don’t let something similar happen to you! Stick with non-drapey clothes!

Also, make sure to consider your socks. Feet can really be affected by the rain. One of my running buddies swears by wearing her thinnest pair of quality running socks when it rains, as it’s less material to rub against your feet. (Bonus: if it does stop raining, they will dry more quickly.)

Be sure to pack lots of Bodyglide, Aquaphor or whatever your anti-chafing agent of choice. Apply waaaay more than you think you might reasonably need, because everything chafes more in the rain! Remember that areas that usually chafe will chafe more so double down on those problem areas, and remember that things that may not normally chafe will chafe. When I ran the Cleveland Marathon in the pouring rain in 2011, my race belt chafed me so badly that it cut my back. Since I’d never had a problem before, I didn’t even think about needed to apply Bodyglide where my belt hit. Don’t be afraid to put the anti-chafing agent on your clothes, belts or whatever else might chafe you too! Another tip: pay special attention to your toes.

For a more comprehensive post on chafing, go here.

Staying Dry Pre-Race is Key

Pack the following (in addition to your usual race gear):

  • A brimmed hat
  • A large garbage bag
  • Old shoes and layers of throwaway clothes
  • Bodyglide (yep, already mentioned that, but it bears repeating!)

Let’s get you covered and dry (-ish) from head to toe, shall we? The brimmed hat will keep the rain off your head and out of your eyes. Bodyglide it up all over – another place not to forget is your armpits!

English: Maayan holds her umbrella (Israel, 2002)
Umbrellas are great for taking a walk, but are useless on the starting line and could poke someone’s eye out to boot! (Israel, 2002) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now it’s time to add some things specifically for that pre-race period where you’re waiting in the corrals. Pile on layers of old clothes that you don’t mind ditching over top of your race clothes, to keep the race outfit as dry as possible for as long as possible. Don a pair of old shoes, if you have them. Cut a slit in the top of that garbage bag for your head and put it on over the whole ensemble. (You can cut armholes also, if you wish, but the head-only option will help you stay warm and dry.) Tuck your race shoes up in your makeshift garbage bag poncho, where they’ll stay nice and dry. You’ll want to  make the shoe switch as close as possible to the start of the race.

Embrace It!

Have fun with it! Everyone’s in the same boat (hopefully, just figuratively), so just relax, prevent the chafe and get out there and get it done!

So there you have it: our guide to the art of racing in the rain. It may not be ideal, but hopefully with the tips above, you can make the best of it.

Have you ever raced in the rain? What rainy day racing tips have we overlooked?

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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  1. I’ve never raced in the rain, and I very rarely run in the rain. I’ve been lucky so far (knock on wood!) for race days. But if it does rain, I’ll keep these tips in mind!

    1. Jojo, I agree with MG’s advice below… get out there in all weather, because you never know what race day will bring!

      Also, how can I get some of your luck? I am the opposite of you – I have a little Eeyore-style cloud following me on race days 🙁

  2. This year’s Country Music Marathon was pretty drenched. I agree with the copious Body Glide. (NB, Shell out the $6, it’s worth it.) That saved me from most chafing. I would recommend a layer of body glide around ALL edges of your sports bra. It’s something I typically forget, and typically end up suffering as a result. Keep the garbage bag until after the gun goes off. Standing around in the rain for the few minutes before your corral starts was the most painful part of my race. I would also recommend a set of dry clothes in a ziploc waiting for you at gear check. A dry shirt felt amazing after my body had started cooling down, and made the ride home more tolerable.
    I wouldn’t have thought to have a second pair of shoes. My feet were wrapped in plastic grocery bags until close to start time. The plastic tore under my feet and didn’t end up keeping my feet as dry as I had hoped. I had an umbella at the start and gave it to a random spectator before I entered a corral. There wasn’t any danger to anyone’s eyes, but then again Chicago is WAY more crowded than Country Music was.

    1. Yeah, the plastic shopping bags are useless – I discovered that in Boston during the 2007 Nor’Easter. I was soaked before the race even started and finished with some sexy blue lips and hypothermia!

  3. This won’t help anyone running this weekend in the rain, but the possibility of a rainy race day is why I think it’s so valuable to run in the rain instead of going for the treadmill during training. Training in the rain can help pinpoint those weird chafe spots and test that your gear actually does what you want.

  4. I think a peaked cap will pay huge dividends while running in the rain.. And yes backed up with an extra layer youre in a better state…

    shoes can have a waterproof coating rolled on, sourced at many shoe shops, so should delay the ingress of water.

    otherwise, some sort if breathable poncho