Thursday, March 1, 2012

Running in the Rain: Suggestions for Umstead Marathon Runners

If you're planning to run the Umstead Marathon this Saturday, and you're trying to find ways to divert your attention from running by thinking of things indirectly related to running—such as the weather—then you've probably checked the Raleigh weather forecast at least twice already. And, you would have seen forecast imagery that looks like this.

East Coast 3-3-2012 forecastThe green glob spanning much of the East Coast represents rain, folks. And, unless the local meteorologists are conspiring against our collective Umstead state of mind, then we can expect to see some precipitation during the race Saturday morning/afternoon. So, let's examine some helpful tips for running in the rain to prepare us for this 26.2-mile adventure.

First of all, we must respect and acknowledge that certain weather conditions, "inclement weather" to be precise, will require the race directors to "cancel" the marathon. (My assumption is that lightning will be the determining factor) Online dictionaries define "inclement" with words like stormy, severe, tempestuous, and a bunch of other subjectively vague terms.

But, whatever the directors decide Saturday morning, we must understand that things would go very badly for them indeed if some poor runner were zapped by lightning while they, the race directors, were the responsible parties.

Now, if the race is "canceled" due to inclement weather, I see no reason why we can't just have a fun run of sorts. And, if the directors wanted to leave the pint glasses and trophies in a box at the finish line for us, that would be fine.

Anyway, legal stuff aside, here are those rain running tips for Umstead:

Leave your race shoes in the car until race time. Walking around in the mud while it's raining is a good way to make your feet unhappy before you force them to carry you for 26.2 miles.

Sure, you and your feet know that they're going to get wet anyway if it's raining. But, feet generally like to stay as dry as possible for as long as possible. So, if you start out with soggy, muddy shoes right away, you can be sure that your feet are going to find a way to tell your mind that you're an asshole. And, when your mind hears that kind of talk from your supporting body parts at the beginning of a marathon, you're pretty much screwed.

So, walk to the registration table barefoot if you have to. And, just before the start time, go dry off your feet and retrieve your shoes. If your car is parked far away, carry your shoes and a towel in a plastic bag while you mull about the starting area.

muddy shoe printChoose footwear wisely. Single-track trails can be slippery when wet. They're riddled with smooth rocks, loosely fallen foliage, and roots. These are all things that can be even more precarious with rain. So, footwear capable of traversing such slippery stuff is ideal.

However, single-track trails make up roughly 19% of the total marathon course. So, don't go overboard with the shoe selection debate. Bridle trails with crushed gravel are not so slippery when wet. And, unless there's a deluge eroding whole pieces of Turkey Creek Trail away, you won't need the Bare-Grip 200 to get you through a rainy Umstead landscape. Just be careful on the single-track stuff.

Don't let the puddles mess with you. I had the good fortune to run on Loblolly during inclement weather a few months ago. And, aside from the cracking sounds of thunder and brief periods of hail, the things that made me run faster than I'd intended were the precariously positioned puddles that formed suddenly along the trail.

It's reflexive to try and leap over a puddle or evade it as best we can. And, that requires some extra energy. But, really, if your already soaked, the best thing to do is run right through! Don't waste your energy unnecessarily during a marathon.

(Again, this is more of a single-track issue. So, most of your race will not be affected by puddles. But, if there are puddles in your path, try to conserve your energy)

Dress for the temperature. Sure, rain makes the temperature colder. But, if it's 60 degrees and raining, you do not need your jacket while you run a marathon. You'll overheat or find yourself stuck carrying a jacket for a few miles. And, why would you want to carry a jacket during your race? Why?

Wearing a hat with a brim keeps the rain out of your eyes. Not much else to say about that unless you wear the hat backwards.

The techiest technical fabric in your running wardrobe will be your friend. So will things like band aids, Vaseline, and Body Glide.

Wetness and chafing go together all too well, I'm afraid. And, that cotton blend just isn't going to cut it if you want to avoid chafing.

Don't count on running your fastest race if it's raining. Muddy trails, potentially strong winds, and, um, rain do a lot to slow runners down. So, just take care of yourself out there. Don't kill yourself. Don't keep looking at your watch or Garmin. Running in the rain is a lot of fun, actually. And, even if this doesn't turn out to be your fastest marathon, it might be the most fun yet!

See you on Saturday!


  1. I'm actually quite pleased with the forecast.

  2. Oh, and you forgot a major plus: no need for portapotties!

  3. Can't wait! I'm bringing a waterproof camera and a snorkel. I hope the new mascot is a fish ...

  4. slap a lifeproof case on a iphone and you're good to go hmm, 1080p race footage ... think about the potential. the case is carried locally at best buy.



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