I dread running in the rain, heat, humidity, and wind.
Is there a worse feeling than anxiously checking the 10-day weather forecast before a climactic race of the season? Before the California International Marathon, I was worried about a rainy race day. At Chicago, I obsessed over the unseasonably high expected race day temperature. Before the Boston Marathon, contorted my brain over the direction of the wind: headwind, tailwind, or crosswind?
With experience, I know I have no control over race day conditions. All I can do is prepare to race, no matter the weather conditions. Easier said than done!
I met an Olympic Trial Qualifier marathoner at The Specialty Running Conference last year as part of a Peregrune activation. Seeing a rainy forecast for CIM, I asked for advice. Should I wear a jacket? Trash bag? Hat? A different set of socks? Lubricate between toes?
“Don’t worry about it. There’s plenty of evidence that dumping heat with rain is beneficial. My teammates and I do workouts in the rain, so it is nothing we haven’t seen before. You’ll be fine.”
The thing is, I had not practiced in the rain. At least not a steady rain. I headed indoors to the treadmill on those days during my training block. Oops. Fortuitously, it was a dry CIM.
Beginning my Grandma’s Marathon training block, I want to approach the fickle weather variable differently. I know veteran runners are rolling their eyes that there is a prosaic solution: run more in adverse conditions. Fair enough. Georgia has plenty of heat and humidity, along with unexpected rain showers. Swapping early morning for an afternoon run can develop valuable heat and humidity adaptations. But I think the solution is more nuanced. It is not that I cannot run in the heat, humidity, rain, or wind. It is that I dread racing in those conditions. On a deeper level, I dread not achieving a pre-planned race goal due to the weather conditions.
Weather is a fundamental variable that can affect your race day pace. You cannot run as fast physiologically when it is hot or humid. Running into a headwind requires a higher expenditure of precious calories. Roads are slippery, and turns are precarious on wet roads. These are real challenges; not all can be obliviated with practice and training.
We should still try. I aim to work out (not an easy run) at least once in the rain in this training block. Rain is the easiest weather variable to desensitize yourself to. A workout in the heat and humidity is more difficult. A hot race day will necessitate slowing down. However, we can give our bodies extra help. Running in the heat and humidity will acclimate your body to the added stress. There’s evidence that heat training produces benefits similar to altitude training. Long and challenging workouts are unduly tricky in these conditions. Easy and moderate runs are the place to start.
Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night…
Best wishes to you on chasing your running goals.