Have you ever checked the weather forecast a few days before a race and cringed? Before the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville half marathon, I rarely checked the race-day weather. If it were raining, I would make sure I had a dark color shirt. In the south, rain in April through October is usually a welcome relief for us. However, after that fateful day in Nashville, I am now a fierce weather-checker.
That race was dubbed the “marathon monsoon” because we had rain, flooding, severe thunderstorm warnings and lightning. Rock ‘n’ Roll did everything they could to warn all of us about the weather. Their policy is “rain or shine,” and they stuck to that. We had weather emails, we had warnings at the Expo, we had more emails, and we had people on the course to direct us and keep us informed. We had it all, and I learned some valuable lessons that day.
Based on my experiences with rain at Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville, here are five tips to survive a marathon monsoon:
1. Chafing happens, and it hurts.
Running in pouring rain calls for serious wardrobe consideration. Things that normally do not chafe in regular weather will definitely chafe to the point of bleeding with wet clothing friction in rain. If you normally wear a cotton T-shirt, DO NOT DO IT! Cotton and rain are disastrous together. If you normally wear lightweight technical clothing, plan to wear more constricting technical clothing for downpours. Shorts ride up when they are wet — and that bunching can cause chafing in sensitive regions.
2. Wear a hat.
I usually wear a hat for every run and race anyway. That day in Nashville, I saw many people in misery with rain running down their faces. The headbands and skull caps were useless. Hats or visors with brims keep the rain off your face. Granted, there was a curtain of water falling off the brim, but it was out of my eyes.
3. Don’t skip the water stations.
After the race was over, my handheld water bottle was completely full. I stopped at two aid stations along the way — and NOT because I was trying to PR. I just didn’t feel thirsty. Completely soaked and sloshing through deep puddles, I can only assume that I didn’t feel the need to add more liquid to my body. When the rain is pouring, make yourself drink anyway.
4. Lube up.
If you currently do not need to use a water-resistant body lubricant for regular training or race days, please keep some handy for very rainy races. Even with careful clothing choices, it is a good idea to apply lubricant to places that MIGHT be a friction point. Rain makes clothing heavier. Waistbands might start moving with soaked clothing. Soaked sports bras might chafe at the band or under the arm. Feet blister in soaked socks. Do a clothing check for potential issues and lube up.
5. Watch the course.
Because Rock ‘n’ Roll is a huge race event, the course had amazing support. We had people keeping us updated with weather, and we knew when the weather warnings were issued and when they passed. Nashville traffic still had to maneuver around our course. In severe weather, not everyone is paying attention to runners. Be extremely vigilant. It is so easy to get into a mental zone when running, but during a race in inclement weather in a large city, a running zone could be disastrous.
That race day was full of great memories of being a kid again and splashing in puddles. I was fortunate to walk away without too many scrapes. However, I now make sure I do these five things for every race that might include a chance of rain. You want that post-race medal selfie to have your genuine smile, not the painful grimace of bad decisions in rainy race clothing. Happy Rainy Running!