10 Tips for Racing in the Rain

How to Survive a Rainy 10K, Half-Marathon, or Marathon

Rain on race day can confound your plans for your 10K, half-marathon or marathon for runners or walkers. You have probably trained mostly on dry days, or on rainy days when you didn't use gear that was appropriate for a race. On race day, you will want to stay with lightweight gear that will change your stride as little as possible. You want compact gear that you can carry easily, and preferably that is disposable so you can toss it if the weather clears. To keep with the maxim that you use nothing new on race day, try these out during your training walks and runs to see what works best for you.


Shorts or a Running Skirt

Racing in the Rain
Alextype/iStock/Getty Images

Your legs are drip dry, while racing tights, capris, or pants will stay soggy once they get wet. Even worse, they will wick the water upwards as well as down until you are drenched below the waist. On race day, plan to wear shorts or a short ​running skirt—the shorter the better if it is raining. Your shorts should be quick-drying and made of sweat-wicking (and rain-wicking) fabric. Even if it is cold outside, your legs will be warmer naked than they will be when covered by wet fabric.


Short-Sleeved Shirt or Tank

lucy Racerback Tank
lucy Racerback Tank. Wendy Bumgardner ©

As with shorts—you are better off with drip-dry skin than wearing long sleeves that get wet. Wear the short-sleeved sweat-wicking racing top that you probably wore on your long training days. Don't worry about your arms getting wet. What you must worry about is getting hypothermia from wet clothing during a long race or afterward. Select a top that doesn't expose any fabric out the sleeves of a disposable rain poncho. Test this during your training runs or walks.


Disposable Rain Poncho

Rain Poncho
Rain Poncho. Courtesy of Amazon.com

You will need waterproof protection, but you may not need it for the whole race. Rather than take along a high-tech waterproof jacket you may have to carry for part of the race, use a disposable rain poncho. Be aware that the sleeves will probably only go down to your elbow, and some ponchos are too short to cover all of your shorts. If the poncho is too long, it may interfere with your stride. Plastic ponchos are not breathable, but a poncho has more airflow than a jacket anyway.


Disposable Waterproof Shoe Covers from Hotel Shower Caps

Shower Cap Shoe Cover with Duct Tape
Wendy Bumgardner ©

Unless you were expecting a rainy race, you probably didn't train in waterproof shoes. It is important to race in shoes you have trained in. You can easily make waterproof shoe covers using disposable hotel shower caps and duct tape. These work surprisingly well to keep most of the rain out of your shoes. You will still have damp socks, but your shoes won't be squishing out water with every step.


Chafing Protection for Nipples and Crotch

Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm
Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm. Courtesy of Amazon.com

While a sports bra protects most women from nipple chafing, men have to remember to protect their nipples during longer races. Both sexes need to remember to protect their upper thighs and crotches from painful chafing. Wet weather can cause extra problems, as the Band-Aids many men use for nipple protection may come loose due to a wet shirt. Use a lubricant such as petroleum jelly, SportShield, BodyGlide or other such products on all areas that may chafe.


Keep Your Phone and Electronics Dry

Cell Phone Armband in Rain
Cell Phone Armband in Rain. AzmanL/Creative RF/Getty Images

Don't forget that electronics hate to get wet. Watches, cell phones, music players, and fitness trackers will stop working when water infiltrates them. Be sure you have a waterproof cover or consider using a condom as folks do for electronics in theater productions.


Trash Bags for Warmups

For cheap and disposable rain protection and to use while you warm up, grab a large trash bag from your kitchen cabinet and make holes for your head and arms. You will see many racers wearing trash bags before the starting gun. Keep in mind that you won't have a hood to keep water from running down your neck and soaking your shirt.


Newspaper Sleeves as Armwarmers or Legwarmers

If the temperatures are cold, you may still want to cover your arms and legs. If you live in an area where the newspapers arrive in plastic covers to protect them from the rain, save these to use as disposable waterproof arm and leg covers. If you have larger thighs, you might want to save plastic magazine covers to use. Just open both ends and slip the tube over the desired limb. Use duct tape to secure them if they are too loose. You will usually want to leave your elbow or knee uncovered so you don't restrict its movement.  These can help keep your arm or leg muscles warm despite your shirt or pants being wet.


Pack Dry Clothes and Shoes

If it looks like rain, check a full set of dry clothes and shoes at the race gear check so you can immediately change into something dry to keep from catching a bad chill. If they don't have a gear check, have a friend bring these to the finish line or have them ready in your vehicle. Be sure to bundle up in the heat sheet they usually give out at the finish. If they don't, have a friend ready at the finish with a space blanket and/or your dry gear. Your body will cool off very, very fast once you stop walking or running. You can get into real trouble if you don't get into dry clothes fast.


Get Warm When You Stop With Grabber Hand Warmers

Grabber Hand Warmers
Grabber Hand Warmers. Courtesy of Amazon.com

Disposable chemical hand warmer packs can really help when you finish the race wet and chilled. After you change into dry clothes, also seek heat to warm you back up. Drink a hot drink such as cocoa (which is also an excellent protein recovery drink), tea, or coffee. When you get home, take a warm bath.


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