It was a Saturday afternoon, my mum was driving me to a cross country race and it was raining, scrap that, it was pouring, hard. So hard that you could feel the car being pushed by the storm towards the hard shoulder. Mum said in only the way that mum’s can: “Are you really going to run in this? Are you mad?”
While my sanity may be questionable (to some anyway), there was no way that I was going to let a few raindrops prevent me from running in my second cross country race of the season. In fact, running in the rain can be enjoyable, challenging and a brilliant workout as long as you’re prepared for it.
Don’t let those rainy days put you off heading outside, it may be just what you need to clear your head and re-energise your body. Here are my thoughts on making the most of a washout workout.
1. The first few minutes are never pleasant, so get over it…
If you’ve ever run cross country, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The first few minutes before you set off and go, you are waiting around at the starting line in your shorts and vest. Your legs and arms are going numb with cold, you’re shivering and you’re wondering what the hell am I doing here. But once the gun has fired and you’ve hit that first hill, the cold is no longer a problem. It’s the same with running in the rain. The initial few minutes are not at all pleasant but it only takes this amount of time to make the switch from hesitation to focusing on your run. Enjoying what you’re doing and forgetting that buckets of water are falling on your head. When you’re sitting in your PJs, contemplating that run in the rain, try to remember that the transition between the initial feeling of getting wet to enjoyment is a short-lived fraction of your race
2. You’re going to get wet
Regardless of what the sportswear manufacturers say, there’s no way you can run in the rain without getting wet. While the latest Goretex-coated clothing can prevent the water from getting in, it stops the water from getting out. And by water, I mean sweat. In all my years of running (10 years), I am yet to find a jacket that is the perfect balance between waterproofing and breathability. If anyone knows of a brand that works then please let me know. In the meantime, I have learnt to accept that despite all my efforts to keep dry by wearing an external water-resistant light-weight layer, there is nothing that will stop me getting wet.
3. Wear appropriate clothing
Having said that, choose running gear that is less likely to absorb water. Running in your dad’s cotton t-shirt is the equivalent to wearing an extra-absorbent nappy as it will suck up any water thrown at it. Opt for light-weight layers (one or two) made from a material that wicks away the sweat from your body. If you can afford it, buy a decent set of find seamless clothing as rain enters through the seams (Ronhill does a great range of base layers that will keep you warm). Get your hands on a light-weight, windproof/shower resistant that will keep the rain out for around 20 minutes and remember to re-coat it every few months with a waterproofing layer. Same goes for your trainers.
4. Think about your footwear
‘Cause it’s slippy out there. Whether you’re road running or hitting those trails, make sure you’re wearing the right footwear as one slip here could be disastrous. I ran my first cross country in my normal running shoes and spent the entire race petrified that I was going to fall over, flat on my face, in the mud. Do not make the same mistake. Invest in decent trail shoes (Saucony and Brooks spring to mind) for running off-piste . Don’t obsess over your foot placements when city running but be more mindful about the fact that there may be puddles etc on your routes for you to dodge, jump over or run right through.
5. Dry your clothes and shoes out properly
We’ve all been there I’m sure, you know when you get a whiff of Eau de wet dog from your gym bag. Make sure you pay special attention to drying you kit out properly after you’ve run in the rain. When it’s not possible to bung it in the washing machine (say if you’ve #runcommute), discreetly hang it up where you can. This will stop the horrendous odour that is so difficult to shift from developing.
6. Don’t wear glasses
Running in your glasses can be incredibly hazardous because a) you become preoccupied with cleaning your glasses and are not able to enjoy your run and b) cannot see where you are going. Contact lenses are a way better option when it’s pouring hard.
7. Be visible
Think about your body as a road vehicle. When it’s raining, cars and bikes switch their lights on to ensure other occupiers of the road can see them. Protect yourself and others by wearing something high-vis or even investing in a headlight. You may feel a bit like a reverse caver and an idiot to boot but at least you’ll be able to spot those puddles in the dark. More importantly, other moving objects will be able to see you.
8. Protect your equipment
You can buy fancy waterproof cases to protect your mobile and MP3 player or you could use my tried and tested method of taking a ziplock plastic bag (the type you use for sandwiches), piercing a hole in the top and slotting your headphones in. It’s entirely up to you. Whatever you choose to do with your electronic devices, please ensure they’re waterproofed when you’re using them in the rain. Unlike yourself, they take a hell of a long time to dry out. Take it from someone who knows and has spent more money on replacing phones than necessary (this was pre-discovery of my sophisticated ziplock method of protection).
9. And yourself
If you’re going to run in the rain, make sure you have something dry, somewhere dry to change into straight afterwards. You’re asking for health troubles otherwise. I’d like to say up your vitamin C, take probiotics and boost your immunity by taking X, Y and Z but I’m not qualified to do so. What I would say is: if you look after your body in the colder, wetter weather, it will respond favourably. And, of course, have fun, not quite singing but running in the rain.
Do you have any tips for rainy running? Or has anyone found a waterproof running jacket that actually works?