Tips for Racing in the Rain

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You’re likely no stranger to running in the rain. Especially if you, like us, live in Michigan. You can lament with me about the crazy weather and uncertainty we experience most of the year. Some days it’s a real treat to just survive an hour run without several significant swings in weather patterns. However, running in the rain and racing in the rain are very different.

While we can put our heads down and grit our teeth in training, race day is about performance, even when the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain,, Ian Frink
Race Director: Ian Frink

We’ve experienced that a time or two, most recently, in fact, this past weekend at the Quad Cities Half Marathon (see below for a recap of the race). The rains came down, and the floods came up!

It happened that one of our friends and readers, Lynne Lentz, ran the full marathon there, as well. She messaged us before the race with some questions about what to do in the rain, so thanks to her, we started compiling a list of tips.

Lynne at the event expo.

Before we get into it, take a moment to appreciate what Lynne wrote to me in a message after finishing the marathon in a personal record–CONGRATS, LYNNE!–time, despite the nonstop rain (sometimes pouring): 

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain,

“I think the thing that helped me most was training in every situation- never using weather as an excuse not to run.”

Lynne Lentz

Our Tips

running tips

Carry Less

Zach and I had planned to carry our handheld bottles and gels like we will racing the Chicago Marathon. We decided to ditch that idea. It is more fatiguing to carry stuff in a downpour. Gravity and extra water weight are not friendly. 

Lynne was able to switch out her stuff halfway so she didn’t have to carry everything she planned to take.

running tips

Wear Less (with a few exceptions)

Unless it’s a cold rain and your clothes can keep you warm, wearing less will mean less rubbing, less weight, and less collection of water on your body (which is super annoying). If you were planning to wear compression socks or sleeves, in a downpour the disadvantages might just outweigh the advantages. Deciding between long capris or shorts? Go with the shorts. You get the picture. 

One exception would be adding a hat or visor. It’s helpful to keep the rain out of your eyes. Unfortunately, I had to ditch my visor because it wasn’t staying on. I did find it much more difficult to keep focus, though, because of the water in my eyes.

running tips

Lube Strategically

Wet conditions make us more vulnerable to chaffing. Lubing in the places of chaffing is important. Zach reminded Lynne and me to avoid lubricating the bottoms of our feet (we’ve heard people recommend that). It would cause us to slip and slide more than usual, especially if it’s wet, so though it might help with chaffing, it also reduces traction.

running tips

Avoid Slippery Surfaces

Like lane lines. Hey, I know this sounds weird, but it’s one of the most important tips you will read today. I ran a rainy half a few years ago and stepped on a lane line and slipped, falling hard on my side. I had road rash and it obviously messed with the rhythm of my race. All the yellow and white road markings are extremely slippery. Be conscientious to avoid them!

Additionally, anything that looks especially shiny is probably slippery. The key is caution, especially when turning or changing direction.

running tips

Prepare Warm Up Gear

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain,

If you are doing a warm up, have an entire outfit prepared to warm up in. Before you put your stuff in gear check, you can put on a fresh singlet, shorts, socks… really, everything. It feels good to toe the line without being completely drenched already. Also, it’s possible the rain will subside and then you won’t have to run the race drenched.

( Remember last week’s post on pre-race preparation? Make sure you’re packing for potential conditions.)

running tips

Forget Time

Each and every person will have a preference with timing their run, but I do suggest freeing yourself from knowing every mile split. It will likely be slower, and knowing your time may weigh on your mind and motivation. It will also be more challenging to read your watch when it’s pouring. 

Of course, there can still be some value to checking your progress during the race. For example, it could help you avoid a mistake like mine, that is, busting off the line like a rabid hound on the scent and rounding out the first two miles on 10k PR pace (Zach may have embellished this part a touch while editing this post… I think I can sneak it past Andi, though).

running tips

Have Extra Shoes

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain,

Not having extra shoes was a fail on my part this weekend. I brought one pair of trainers, my racing flats, and sandals. After my rainy shake out on Saturday (race on Sunday), my trainers were drenched. I had to wear my sandals the rest of the day. They were flip flop style too, which is terrible for the feet and legs. 

I eventually stuffed my trainers with newspaper, so they were ready the next day for my warm up. Still, I wish I would’ve had them to wear all day on Saturday. After the race, I had to wear my sandals too as they were my only dry shoes, and my feet were freezing. It was hard to warm up the rest of the day.

Quad Cities Half Marathon Race Recap

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain,

Before we elaborate, here are a few general details about the weekend:

  • Rainy race in Moline, IL. 
  • Fairly flat course. 
  • 1,661 participants in the half marathon. 
  • Fun fact: 1,012 were female!

Andi’s Race

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain

Distance: Half Marathon (results here)
Place: 2nd overall female 
Time: 1:21:42 (personal record!)
Pace: 6:14/mile 
Reaction: This race challenged me. I love racing surrounded by others, and I found myself racing alone in the rain. I started out way too fast, and ran way too slow in the middle, finishing in about the pace I should’ve gone the whole time. The rain was difficult for me as I was worried about falling and navigating the standing water. Overall, it turned out more like a workout than a race. The woman who finished in front of me ran 1:15:49 a couple weeks ago and 1:19:18 at Quad Cities. She found the conditions very challenging as well.

Zach’s Race

Quad Cities Marathon, Racing in the Rain

Distance: Half Marathon (results here)
Place: 3rd overall
Time: 1:07:02
Pace: 5:06/mile
Reaction: Meh. I opened up with the intent to contend, but it was rapidly apparent that my legs were not interested in a second weekend in a row of 4:50s. Like Andi, most of the lead men ran alone, already strung out by the third mile. This is fairly common in unpleasant conditions, and while I would have liked to grit it out with the front, it’s probably better that I wasn’t having it. Chicago remains the priority, and these races are only intended to splash the system, not overwhelm it.

atozrunning- Racing in the Rain

Racing in the rain brings unique challenges, but each race holds it’s own story. Quad Cities Half Marathon was unforgettable. Gaining the mental toughness and overcoming the obstacles we had during this race will certainly help us moving forward.

One last tip for you…

If it rains, don’t cry. Lynne captured it perfectly in her post-race reflections, “Crying doesn’t help you breathe.” (True- both literally and figuratively!)

It’s important to embrace the day- rain, sleet, snow, sun, or whatever the circumstances may be.

2 replies
  1. Benjamin Murray
    Benjamin Murray says:

    I enjoy running and racing in the rain, but psychologically I have to be dry before I get started. I continue what I started waaayyyy back in high school by bringing 3-5 pair of socks for any race I do. Multiple shoes is a great idea– though I have yet to invest in a pair of racing flats. How much do you think those would assist?
    Great job to both of you. This is a half marathon that quite a few folks in my community like to do. Will there be any more shakeouts before Chicago?

    • Zach Ripley
      Zach Ripley says:

      Heaps of extra socks is a must!
      Traditionally, the benefit of racing in flats is (1) less weight to lug into the air with each stride and (2) often more aggressive foot positioning (depending on the flat) for more forward propulsion.
      That said, the newest category of racing shoes introduced by Nike’s game-changing 4% are carbon-plated shoes (the plate being inside the rubber sole). Several of the major players already have one, and as a performance aid, the carbon plate is a clear benefit (stiffer while at the same time more energy return when it flexes = greater propulsion plus less work for the foot to do).
      And thanks for the note. No more races before Chicago for us (this last one was already a bit closer to race day than we would have liked). It’s marathon time!

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