Running In The Rain


Great Strides 2007

Shelly Florence-Glover


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During the 1997 New York City Marathon the rain hammered runners. I was personally looking for Noah to be making rounds.

Marathoner Sandeep Desai had oodles of practice running in the slop. This log entry comes from August 1997 while he trained in Bombay India — in the monsoon season:

I guess I spoke too soon when I said the rains were playing truant. Starting Thursday we’ve had the highest rainfall in five years — 11 inches in 12 hours. There was total chaos in the city with flooding, buildings collapsing and train tracks submerged under 3-4 feet of water.

Another 7 inches on Saturday and Sunday. In short, the city’s infrastructure collapsed. But, I knew I must get the long run in. I started the run at 5:15am before heat set in for the day it was 79 degrees and 101 percent humidity.
I limited myself to an out-and-back course of two miles round trip. There were extremely strong winds on the out part of the course — towards the end I avoided them by running a new course — which was uphill!! It was raining heavily and I was running around in soggy shoes.

During the 9th and 10th mile I had a narrow escape. A scooter drove head on into me — I escaped with a bruised shoulder and twisted my eyeglasses. Of course there was an unpleasant exchange of words and only later did I realize the guy was driving on the wrong side of the road! Ten minutes later I ran into a pot hole, which I could not see due to the ruined glasses and there was a lot of water in the road. Again escaped unhurt.

The only thing that kept me going was the thought of telling you that I could not finish. My left knee hurt around 19 -20 miles especially downhill. I had to stop and run up hill to avoid the pain. In fact my entire body was hurting from the waist down. Somehow I lost concentration after the accidents and am not sure if I ran 20 or 22 miles.... In retrospect I think I was very lucky.

Long runs In The rain

In the words of the late great Emil Zatopek, "There is a great advantage in training under unfavorable conditions. It is better to train under bad conditions, for the difference is than a tremendous relief in a race."

Most of us are lucky we don’t have to train through a monsoon — let alone an entire monsoon season.

But the New York area is not without wind and rain of its own. A 1996 nor’easter slammed the New York City area in prime long run time -- two weeks before the Marathon. Some 86 faithful would-be marathoners trounced through 20 miles of Westchester’s Croton Aqueduct mud within yards of a vomiting Hudson River. The county required Federal Aid to get back on its feet — the runners did not. Needless to say, 20 miles of those conditions and the real New York City Marathon seemed a jog in the park.

So what is it that gets these runners through the wind, rain, and mud of marathon training? A few tricks and a lot of determination.

Avoiding Rain Drain

Rubbing clothes and blisters can be annoying any time but they are exacerbated by the rain. Apply a little petroleum jelly but not water soluble ( rain washes them away) body lubricants to tender spots. Don’t know where the tender spots are? Wait until you step into a hot shower after a long run — you’ll know instantly where you're missing skin.

Generally good spots to coat lightly are under bra and jock straps, between thighs, under arms, nipples and don’t forget the feet. It’ll only take a few trial and error runs to identify clothing that rubs you the wrong way.

< P>Plan long runs for Saturday. If the weather is horrendous you can wait until Sunday and hope for better conditions.


It looks like shipwrecking weather as I write this web page but I ran anyway. A little field work in the wind and rain didn’t provide any great flashes of insight. Inside my jacket and under my hat I was somewhat dry. It was rather nice out there. But, nice wore off and cold and wet stared to wear on me. Then its not nice, not fun and a little risky.

Rain, wet clothing and wind can lower your body temperature further reducing the capacity of your fatigued impaired brain. If you start shivering at your low effort, the long run isn't creating enough body heat to offset environmental losses. If running isn’t creating enough heat, neither will shivering. When the quivers strike, call it a day and hit the hot showers.

Avoiding Hypothermia
  • Run the first half of the workout running against the wind and the second half with a warming tailwind that wraps body heat around you like a blanket.
  • Wear a hat and gloves.
  • Wind-chill is a factor in all seasons. Wear a nylon windbreaker type-shell or other jacket to keep the wind out and your body heat in. A vented, breathable jacket is the most comfortable
  • Listen for the warning sound of approaching cars spewing mud and hurry up onto the curb to avoid an icy mud bath.
  • If convenient, try changing into dry clothes a few times during a run.
  • Run a loop course if conditions are bad. Better not to be far from home. Just in case, carry enough money for a cab ride, phone call or emergency hot chocolate.

In the end, training is only a dress rehearsal for the marathon to come. The more disastrous the weather, the more heroic your training journal entry. Be safe, be smart, keep the pace . . . and the faith. Practicing in the rain has only made you more ready for marathon day.


Running Coach Shelly Glover has a master's degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University. She co-authored The Runner's Handbook and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, is a veteran road runner and marathoner. She also coaches The Greater New York Racing Team is available for private coaching. Coaching Services