The Art of Running in the Rain (or ‘Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, partie deux’)

April being the month of showers, an event back in 2018 comes to mind, where weather was forecast to be in the low to mid 30’s F, with steady heavy rain and serious gusting winds.  At mid-pack pace, I’d be out there for a good four hours, so this was definitely gonna be a gear-critical day.

Figuring the regular ¾-length compression tights would leave too much flesh exposed, I opted instead for a full length pair I’d brought along for casual wear. Fast forward to a couple of miles out in the rain and their stylish light-weight fabric started sagging and bagging. Couple more miles and the butt-covering portion had sopped up enough water to become a noticeable dead weight hanging noticeably below where it was supposed to fit.

Given that weather forecast, gloves were definitely in order, and figuring plain fleece would absorb too much moisture, I’d opted for a pair of thinner gloves with a wind-stopping nylon-hood sort of feature that could be pulled over the fingers to approximate the warmth of mittens. That nifty nylon hood kept the wet out for, oh, a good 30 seconds or more, after which the stretch material beneath it became thoroughly soaked and lost whatever insulating properties it might ever have.  Which meant my fingers were too stiff and bulky to retrieve a gel from a pocket without removing a glove, which I promptly did, only to realize those gloves had actually been keeping my hand considerably less-frozen than hanging them out naked in the downpour. Seconds later came the further realization that thanks to the glove’s soggy stretch- fabric, it took a full stop and an eternity of pushing, pulling ,shoving and tugging to get the sticky shrunken mass back onto my hand.

Thus was the rest of the run spent alternately struggling to pull up my tights and begging spectators to put my gel flasks back in their belt-holders for me after fueling – which ended up occurring about a quarter as often as necessary, thanks to the frozen claws.

The lesson learned is an old one – never try anything for the first time during a run that counts. The big event should be the big event, not a Myth-Busters experiment, so test out all gear beforehand, under the most realistic conditions possible (in this case, I suppose I should have stood under a gushing hose in a walk–in cooler for an hour or so, but even I’m not that sick).

So, what does work in the rain? First off, a cap with a long, stiff brim, especially if like me, you need to wear glasses. Head tipped forward, brim pulled down low, I swear I never saw anything on that April day that was more than about 8’ in front of my toes, but my glasses stayed clear (which is a good thing ‘cause there’s no way I’d’ve been able to wipe them off in the downpour).

Another sure thing – wool socks. Wet or dry, they keep the piggies warm (and fight blisters to boot).

And finally – forget the waterproof jacket!  My two cents is, if you’re running, you’re gonna get wet from the inside anyway, so anything with enough water-repellency to keep the cold water outside and the warm moisture inside is good enough. What really matters are pit-zips! That nifty little invention lets you vent heat and moisture where they build up the most, while keeping the actual vent openings about as well hidden from vertical precipitation as anatomical geometry will allow. Pit zips be the bomb; jackets without them are the pits!

Avoid hypothermia, keep your hands useable and your vision clear, your head down and your feet moving till you get to that bundle of warm, dry gear you’ve stashed at the finish.  Sometimes that’s the best we can do, but it’s still called…running!

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