How to Race Well in Unfavorable Conditions

My last three major Spring Races have been in crappy conditions.  Either it was pouring rain, wind gusts of 50MPH or both.  I know I’m in the best shape of my life, but you have to race for the conditions, and can’t control the weather.

How to Race in Unfavorable Conditions

The Shamrock half marathon was 40s pouring rain and windy

The April Fools Half Marathon was windy and had gusts of up to 50MPH

The Broad Street 10 miler was raining

I’m beginning to think you should avoid racing with me if you want to run in good conditions. 

I decided to think about ways and techniques I’ve learned to:

 Race Well in Unfavorable Conditions:
  • Wrap yourself in trash bags. The goal is to keep yourself as dry as possible before the race.  Trash bag your shoes and your entire self.  At Broad Street, several people passed me at the end still wearing their trash bags.
  • Wear form fitting clothing and avoid cotton. The more tightly fitting the clothing, the less it’s going to chafe, rub and become a wet soggy mess.
  • Thin socks: This is a must. The goal is to keep your feet as dry as possible.  There are a lot of thin socks, but my favorite are the low cut CEP compression because they hug your feet.
  • Hats: Before this spring I was never a hat person.  They never stayed on my head.  To keep the rain out of my eyes, I’ve experimented with hats.  I don’t have a recommendation as my favorite hat so far is from the Shamrock half marathon.
  • While I don’t race with a phone, I know many racers do. Put it in a Ziploc bag to make sure it doesn’t get water damage.

The problem with races along the shore in the Spring is the wind.  Races along the coast are typically flat, but you never know what kind of wind there will be.  Except the Carlsbad half marathon on the West, Coast…that was a windy shore race that wasn’t flat.

  • Try to run with a group. Running with a group isn’t always possible, but it makes running a lot easier both mentally and physically to run with a pack in the wind.  You also see other racers are battling the same elements.
  • Turn your head to the side to breathe. If you’re running through a headwind, turning your head to the side to breath makes it a lot easier.  I didn’t know that until this year!
  • Invest in a good piece of wind resistant clothing. The wind can be piercing and chill you to the bone.  Combined with rain, it is one of most undesirable weather conditions.  Try a lightweight windproof jacket.  I recommend using as much tight fitting clothing as possible so that it doesn’t blow around.

I’m not getting paid to promote any of these pieces of clothing, but they are items I’ve had success with:

Gortex Running Jacket ($249.99)

This is the most expensive piece of running apparel I own, but it’s worth it.  It kept me dry at Broad Street and kept the wind out.  If you can, I would recommend investing in a Gortex Jacket.  I never knew how amazing they were until I did.

CEP Low Compression Socks ($20):

I like the low cut socks because I can use compression sleeves as well.  My shoe size and calf size are different so the high socks won’t fit my feet and calves.  The socks themselves are thin, and if they do get wet, they won’t weigh you down.

The best piece of advice for any racing is to stay positive.  At the end of the day, you can’t control the weather.  You have to make the best of the situation, and if you’re able to think positively, you’ll be able

Questions for you:

How do you race in unfavorable conditions?

What is the worst weather you’ve run in? 


  1. I remember being told when I first started running (back in middle school cross country) about the weather. We were whining and our coach just said. You can never be scared of the weather, that’s why we run at practice…rain or shine. I learned a lot from that coach. He taught us about running by effort in the wind, and using our arms to help compensate. How to draft off someone else and let them fight the wind (if possible). How to make sure you use something on your feet before putting on socks (vaseline, body glide, etc) to prevent blisters.
    Weather can really get mentally tough to run in. But in the end I think it really does help make us stronger.

  2. I’m normally a fair weather runner but the fact it rained for my first marathon kinda took the pressure off 🙂

  3. I feel like I’ve run in rainy races this spring more than ever ! I agree with the hat- I hate hats in regular weather (they make me feel so hot!), but in rain, love the way they keep the rain out of my face.

  4. I was in that same Virginia Beach half-marathon. But by the time I finished (2:11) it was cloudy, and not raining anymore. But boy the first 10K was miserable, eh?

    For me my clothes are all about temperature. If it’s cold, I’ll bundle. If it’s warm, I race in just a sugoi top (the only think that doesn’t chafe), and these days a pair of tri-shorts. I live in Balega socks and HOKA Bondi 4’s.

    But if it’s raining, I just get wet. Doesn’t really bother me. Maybe it’s my Seattle upbringing.

    1. I agree and the weather was a bit better towards the end. I think I was so cold, hypothermic I was oblivious though.

      That’s an awesome time in those conditions!

      1. Thanks! Three weeks later in the Love Run in Philly we finally broke 2 hours. I am now a 1:59 half-marathoner and damned proud of it.

  5. We (My partner BB and I) have a 5K obstacle course on Saturday, a trail half-marathon Memorial Day weekend in the Poconos (The Charley Horse Half), and then I’m ramping up for the New Jersey State Olympic Triathlon (my first) in July.

  6. This spring has been a crapshoot for weather! I did my goal HM in 50 mph gusts and my goal marathon in constant drizzle/rain. Great tips!

  7. I hate running in the rain so I’m always terrified that it’ll rain on race day. I’ve been pretty lucky so far though and haven’t raced in the rain. It always seems to be really hot/humid or freezing cold when I race! Still waiting for those perfect conditions!

  8. That’s a good tip about turning your head to breathe on a windy day- we do have a lot of wind here on the coast, so I will keep that one in mind.

    A lot of people here worried themselves sick over the potential of rain at this year’s Cooper River Bridge Run. Even my husband teased me that it would rain and I stayed calm… if you train in any weather, you are ready to race no matter what the weather is. Minus a thunderstorm or something when the race would be cancelled or it’s dangerous. Turns out, weather was great for that race, too!

    Weather is def. not something you can control in a race so there is really no use to worry much- and everyone out there is dealing with the same weather and riding the struggle bus together!

  9. I can’t think of any races I’ve run that have been really terrible outside of cross country and track. Those ones were brutal. We ran through snow, hurricanes, 96 degree heat, and wind gusts. My coach didn’t let us wear tights or long sleeves under our uniforms because he was worried we’d overheat so that was rough. Staying positive and trying to keep your mind off the weather is the only thing that kept me. Luckily, I was only racing a 5K at the time.

  10. Perfect timing. Looks like I’ll be racing in the rain/wind this weekend. Ugh.

    I was actually going to ask you about CEP sizing. My calves are small but my feet are big so I guess I’ll have to try the sleeves not the tall socks. Bummer, but better than smooshed feet!

    1. That’s exactly issue as well Heather. I would recommend getting sleeves and short socks. I think it’s only $5 more doing it that way, versus one size long sock.

  11. Worst weather I ever ran it was either Boston 2012 or Boston 2015. In 2012, it was 90 degrees with 95% humidity. I was in wave 2 that year so the 10:30 start was awful. In 2015, it was freezing, windy and pouring. Lots of runners suffered from hypothermia. I was okay until the finish…I think 2012 was the worst yet because it was such a late start time – you were running a marathon during the hottest part of the day!

  12. Overall I consider myself lucky compared to what many friends have run in! I had a snowy slightly icy race in KC and it rained during the OKC marathon…but it wasn’t torrential so not awful! I figure it just makes me even more of a badass to finish!

  13. That’s interesting about turning your head to the side to breathe! I never knew that. And I really like how you added the tip about staying positive… It’s good to let go of the things we can’t control. And hey! Getting through those tough ones just makes us stronger in the log run, right? 😀

  14. As a novice runner, I definitely appreciate these tips. The only unfavorable conditions I had to deal with so far at a races is extreme heat. Thank you for sharing!

  15. My least favorite is probably wind. I don’t mind rain, as it’s sometimes easier to run in rain than in a really sunny race. The worst race we did was about 5 or 6 years ago on a trail. We were running into a HUGE headwind on the way out, going uphill, and we had the wind at our backs coming back. It was two loops, and it was one of the best challenges ever. It’s amazing how God uses those things to help me trust Him more and push myself through pain.

  16. This is all really good advice! I had never heard about the breathing thing. Regarding the tight clothes, I was debating long sleeves vs. short sleeves with arm warmers for shamrock, but opted for short sleeves to avoid the long ones blowing around. Kudos to you for toughing it out in these conditions and I think you are owed some good fall race weather.

  17. It rained the first half of my half last weekend. Honestly, I wished the rain away, but once I felt the humidity afterwards I wished the rain would come back.

    My sock choice was questionable for the rain which earned me some blisters. But nothing like the bra chaffing of my rainy first marathon in 2011. I literally still have scars.

  18. I had my first rainy race this spring a half, and the hat was so key! I had never run in a hat before and my sister told me she was bringing one…so I found the one hat I have that was swag from an ultra I ran and oh it was the best. I am a hat convert! it saved me even though the rest was a soggy mess.
    I am amazed to this day that was the first time I have had to run a race in the rain. Wind is totally different I have run so many jersey shore races it is inevitable…

  19. These are all great tips, especially the last one. A positive attitude makes a HUGE difference. I also find that dressing in bright, cheerful colors really helps me when the weather is dreary.

  20. I JUST discovered how much it helps to use a hat in the rain! It totally keeps the water off our face and out of your eyes. Amazing these things we learn 🙂

  21. I’m a huge advocate for wearing hats when it’s raining. I’ll also braid my hair so the curls don’t get tangled up in knots!

  22. The 2015 BAA 10K started in torrential rain. It was almost biblical. Before the race 10,000 of us stood there looking at each other and laughed as the rain seemed to intensify with each moment. At least it was warm.
    I ran the Baystate Marathon in almost freezing conditions in just nylon shorts. Hello Under Armor!
    In wet weather chafing is inevitable and intensified. I use a silicon roll on from Two Toms and recently discovered another product called ChafeX which works really well on all areas of the body.
    I would rather run in the summer rain than the cold of winter. I’d rather run in snow than freezing rain.
    I agree about hats.

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