Running in the Rain

10.21.09: What a glorious feeling (if done right).


When I first started running, I did it all on the treadmill. In my basement gym, I learned to love the pounding of my feet on the padded surface, the loud music piped in through the gym’s loudspeaker (for days when I forgot my iPod) and only the mirror and the image of myself slogging out the miles to entertain me.

In the gym, the weather is always the same—60 degrees and slightly humid with a light smell of BO (at least in my cheap-o gym anyway). For about a year, I never faced the elements, never ran up a hill that was not approximated by using the treadmill’s incline and never exposed my shoes to harsher elements than whatever the world could throw me during the ¼ mile walk from my front door to the gym entrance.

But then I took to the pavement and it was a whole new world.

I looked forward to the summer with added gusto because more daylight and better temperatures meant I could run any time during the day. I dreaded snow on days when I had long runs scheduled. I learned to love the rain and to embrace a good soaking wet run. I bought Yak Trax and slogged miles through several blizzards, the ice pellets stinging my skin and snow packed in my hair.

Sure, three feet of snow would slow me down, but it never stopped me. But somehow during my marathon training, I lost sight of these facts. Maybe I was spoiled because it was summertime and most of my training was in nice weather. My only training runs in the rain were my final 8-miler a week before the race and the 2 mile jog I did the day before. Or maybe I was already so scared of 26.2 miles, that rain seemed almost too much to bear.

Regardless of the reason, I spent the last couple weeks before the big day obsessively watching the Weather Channel, and whatever 10-day forecasts I could find that would tell me what Oct. 4 might bring in terms of weather. And for the last few days, the predictions were all the same: rain.

I have always found running in the rain to be cleansing, a baptism of sorts. There is a level of surrender that comes to offering oneself to the elements, listening to pounding music and stomping in puddles one normally avoids. I have come home so wet I have literally had to wring my clothing into the bathtub. But I never minded. Somehow this was different. Somehow 26.2 miles—and the chafing and the blisters and the bone chilling wetness—would be the death of me.

And so I researched. I ran my last two rain-filled runs in the Nike Distance Storm Fit Jacket, which is unlined and practically weightless and was great as an outer layer in the cooler weather, but tended to be a bit hot in warmer weather. In addition, I rotated three Storm-fit hats, which are absolutely a must for running in wet weather. They kept the rain out of my eyes, but did not retain the water that my cotton Red Sox hat would have.

Other rain must-haves included:

Body glide A lubricating stick that helps reduce chafing. I applied this liberally.

Throwaway poncho Two miles (and many degrees of warmth) into the race, this 99-cent poncho can be chucked, unlike a $200 rain jacket.

Wright Double Layer Anti-Blister Socks I cannot say enough good things about these socks. They helped keep my feet (semi) dry on runs where the rest of me was thoroughly soaked. If possible, it would be nice to have a second pair to change into around the 20-mile mark.

A second pair of shoes One of the little known facts about running shoes is that they have to be replaced every 250-300 miles. I went through two pairs in my training for this past marathon. And there is no quicker way to destroy a new pair than to run in them. It takes at least 24 hours for shoes to regain their shock absorbency after being soaked. So keep one old pair in rotation for the crap weather. Believe me, you will thank me.

In the end, my marathon day dawned overcast, but dry. Perfect, in fact. I lucked out.

This past weekend a few of my friends had to run their marathons in a good old-fashioned Nor-Easter, replete with ripping winds, driving rain and yes, even snow at times (got to love fall in New England). Although I said a little prayer of gratitude that my own race had worked out as well as it had, I was also pleased to see that Mother Nature’s insane unpredictability had little bearing on their outcomes. They all took it in stride and ended their days with cozy sweatpants, hot toddies and the same feeling of accomplishment all we marathoners have.

Sasha Brown-Worsham is a writer, a mother and an unabashed, unashamed runaholic. Check her progress each week as she trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon.