A blog by runners. For runners.

Adverse race day weather conditions action plan

Racing in adverse conditionsImagine this: you train for a marathon hard for 16 weeks. Training goes well and you feel like you’ll be able to meet your goal. Then you wake up on race day to temperatures 20 degrees warmer than usual. Do you abandon your goal? What do you wear? How do you fuel? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s what to do when race day weather calls for:

Heat and humidity

  • How to adjust your goal: Unfortunately, the heat and/or humidity will affect your goal time, especially if you aren’t used to running in hot conditions. If the thermometer is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, expect race times to suffer. If it’s above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, dramatically alter your goal or consider skipping the race all together.  In the heat it’s best to run by perceived effort rather than the clock so you don’t overexert yourself and end up with a dangerous heat-related illness.
  • What to wear: Choose moisture-wicking clothes and apply BodyGlide liberally to prevent chafing.
  • How to fuel: Drink at every fluid station. You’ll sweat more in hot and humid conditions so staying hydrated is a must. If you’re a salty sweater, you may need more electrolytes than usual so plan to drink sports drinks or eat an extra gel.

Cold weather

  • How to adjust your goal: Depending on how cold it is, you may not have to tweak your goal at all. If you’re used to running in 70 degree Fahrenheit weather, a start temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit may feel cold but it may actually help your performance. If it’s bitterly cold, it may take your muscles longer to warm up, so don’t expect a slower pace in the earlier miles.
  • What to wear: Dress in layers (think long sleeves and tights made of polyester blend) and wear a hat and gloves if it’s very cold. Remember you can always toss outer layers or accessories if it gets warmer.
  • How to fuel: Fuel according to plan, but be extra mindful to drink up because dehydration can happen in cold weather, too. Many runners don’t feel as thirsty in cooler conditions so they don’t take in as much liquids as they should.

Wind

  • How to adjust your goal: A tailwind will help you run faster. A slight headwind or cross-winds on a hot day may be beneficial to your pace, too, because it will help you stay cool. A strong headwind on a cold day can be detrimental to your goals, though. Experts say that a substantial wind (greater than or equal to the pace you’re running) will add 12 seconds per mile with a headwind, and subtract 6 seconds per mile with a tailwind (source).
  • What to wear: A light, polyester jacket (like this one) will keep you warm in a cold headwind. Unzip the jacket when the wind is at your back, and zip up when running into the wind.
  • How to fuel: Fuel according to plan.

Rain

  • How to adjust your goal: A little rain likely won’t impact your time, but downpours and storms may significantly slow down your time. Safety is your top priority. If the conditions are slick, keep it slow and watch your footing so you don’t fall.
  • What to wear: A hat or visor with a bill will keep rain from getting in your face and make it easier for you to see. A light, polyester windbreaker will keep you dry and warm.
  • How to fuel: Fuel according to plan.

Snow and ice         

  • How to adjust your goal: Remember, as with rainy conditions, safety is your top priority. The snow and ice will significantly slow your pace because you’ll need to be extra careful with your footing. Watch for black ice.
  • What to wear: Dress in layers to stay warm. Wear a baseball cap with a nylon or fleece winter running hat over it so your head stays warm. If you have them, wear Yaktrax or shoes made for running in the snow.
  • How to fuel: Fuel according to plan, paying special attention to stay hydrated.

Written by Jen Matz.