One thing is for sure, if you’re a UK trail runner, the chances are it’s not going to be long before you experience trail running in the rain. For those fair-weather runners amongst you, a bit of drizzle is enough to delay the run for another day however, for the hardened trail runner, it’s a chance to enjoy nature and embrace the rain. As all-weather trail runners, we have put together our top tips to make trail running in the rain more comfortable, and trust us, with the recent, and rather constant rain we have been having, we are very well-versed in the subject.
It Looks and Sounds Worse Than it is
I am very guilty of this – I lie in bed and think it sounds horrible. The rain is lashing down, the wind is howling and my female frame is going to get blown off the top of the Mendips. Not the case! it’s never as bad as it sounds. Once you get outside and start running, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. There have been some blustery nights of late where it sounds like a hurricane outside, but getting out and running in the early hours has never been as bad as anticipated. There’s something quite liberating about trail running in the rain, not worrying about getting wet and splashing through the puddles. Sometimes, getting out of the door is the hardest part!
Preparation will make it much easier and having the right wet weather gear will make the whole experience a bit less of an ordeal.
Accept That You Are Going to Get Wet
However much you dress for the conditions, and whatever precautions you take, you are going to get wet. A dirt track will become a river, the puddles will be as wide as the paths and no matter how much you try and skirt around the puddles, you are going to go in. Brace for impact! I tend to layer up – if it’s cold then a thin base layer, a t-shirt over the top and a lightweight waterproof jacket. If it’s spring/summer and the weather is mild but wet, I tend to go with a shorts and vest combo. Skin dries quicker than material! Let’s be clear though – I will always take layers – with a risk of falling over and getting injured in bad weather, safety has to be a priority.
I have tried a few taped seams waterproof jackets – my current favourite is a Proviz jacket – traditionally designed for cyclists, I find this does keep the rain out! You can get them in some pretty bold colours too including the silver/white version which you can definitely see coming on a dark night! Highly recommend this as do many of my fellow runners. With taped seams, it also ticks the boxes for the ultra runners. Of course, Inov-8 does good wet weather gear too, as do most of the leading running brands.
Kit for a Wet Run
Wear a Hat
A hat with a brim will keep the rain off your face when trail running in the rain. A thin, lightweight baseball cap won’t do much to keep your head or hair dry but the brim will protect your face from the rain. A buff worn around the head is also great for stopping the rain from getting into your eyes or worn around the wrist to wipe your face when you’re running. A visor is another good option for stopping the rain from dripping into your eyes.
Don’t Wear Cotton
If you don’t want to chafe then don’t wear cotton gear. Instead choose something that won’t stick to your skin when wet. Technical wool or wicking fabric doesn’t get heavy when wet and actually dries out pretty quickly too. Look for moisture wicking material when choosing vests or t-shirts.
Wear Trail Running Shoes that Drain
Tempting as it may seem to wear waterproof shoes, this isn’t always such a good idea when trail running in the rain. Waterproof trail running shoes are designed to keep the water out. If you’re a road runner they may work but once on the trails, a sizeable puddle or a stream means water will get in and it won’t be able to get out. We love the Salomon Speedcross 5 and the Hoka Speedgoat 5.
Choose the Right Socks
Performance (Wicking) Socks are the way forward when it rains! Forget cotton which will stick to your feet and cause all sorts of issues! Wet feet are no fun, especially if they get wet early in a run and you have some distance to travel. We like Injinji running socks – they have individual toe pockets like gloves for your feet. They separate your toes and stop them from rubbing together.
There are some people who swear by waterproof socks. They don’t come cheap though but they may just prevent you getting blisters and protect your feet from the worst of the water.
Vaseline, Bodyglide, Runglide – be sure to put it on before you step out of the door! You are going to get wet and wet clothes against skin cause chafing. You don’t want to experience raw, burning flesh after a run. A hot shower to warm you up is not going to be the relief you are seeking!
Wear Darker Colours but Be Seen
Especially the ladies – lighter clothes can become see-through when wet so be sure to wear darker colours.
The contradiction to this is that you need to be seen, especially on darker days and during dark evenings. If you are going to be running in the dark, invest in a high-vis vest. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Lightweight Waterproof jacket
If it’s really raining, and not just drizzling, we always pack a lightweight waterproof jacket. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it does need to have taped seams. The taped seams mean that the rain doesn’t get in through the jacket. You can also get waterproof taped seamed trousers which you will rarely use. You might want to buy a pair of these for ultra races though as race organisers tend to insist on them.
If you’re running a long way off road in the middle of nowhere and something goes wrong such as getting injured or wet, you want something that is going to keep you dry and warm. This gear doesn’t have to be that which is marketed at runners. You can pick up relatively inexpensive brands that do the job. Consider how much you are going to use these items. It may be that you want to invest more in a jacket that you can run in but not so much on waterproof taped-seam trousers that are mostly kept in your running backpack.
Tempting as it may be to buy a darker colour, consider something hi-vis. Some of the above jackets come in a range of bright colours. They also range from less than £10 to over £200. Read the reviews from other runners and see which one ticks all of the boxes for you.
Keep Your Dry Stuff Dry
If you have a spare pair of socks, some emergency loo roll, or your mobile phone in your hydration vest, they are going to get wet when trail running in the rain. Running backpacks are not waterproof and the stuff in them will get wet and soggy or worse, damaged. Pop these things inside sandwich bags with the plastic zip lock to keep everything dry.
We keep a pair of dry shoes and socks back in the car for really wet runs – saves your car from getting dirty. Don’t leave your wet shoes in a bag in the car though! You will be wondering what the smell in the car id in a few day’s time (guilty as charged).
Protect your Electronics
I have gone out on a run before in the rain with my phone in my running belt, got home to pop it on charge only to discover that the charging port has got wet and needs to dry out. Now I always pop my phone in a waterproof case. This goes for any other electronics. Don’t let them get exposed to the water.
Prepare to Get Muddy
You can’t be a trail runner and not like mud. If it’s raining, there is going to be mud on the trails. This means that you are going to get dirty feet right through from your trail running shoes to your toenails. You will get it up the back of your legs too! Be prepared to clean your feet with a scrubbing brush in the shower. I actually use these exfoliating gloves which are amazing for getting rid of the mud up your legs, on your feet, and around your toes! If you do apply bodyglide or vaseline, the mud will slide off in the shower.
Preparing for an Ultra Marathon in the Rain
Training runs are one thing – you can always adjust your run to avoid the worst of the rain. You can go out earlier, finish later or just skip for the following day. When it comes to an ultra marathon in the rain though you have no choice. You have to be at that start line come rain or shine! Be prepared. Let’s summarise:
- Wear the right kit – (pack an extra pair of socks to change during the race and your taped-seam waterproof gear)
- Make sure you apply plenty of Vaseline or Bodyglide
- Wear dark colours to avoid the see-through look
- Don’t wear cotton – choose wicking materials that wick the moisture away
- Embrace the rain – enjoy splashing through the puddles
- Remember – it’s only water! Other than getting cold and wet, it won’t hurt you.
- Pack your waterproofs – race organisers will expect to see them
- If you have a map – get a map cover!
- Pop loo roll in a waterproof bag – do the same with your mobile phone
While you are not going to be able to stop getting wet when trail running in the rain, you can make it a more comfortable experience by following the tips above. Most importantly though; don’t let a bit of rain stop you! Embrace the rain.
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