A blog by runners. For runners.

Rain vs. wind: the pros, the cons, and how to run in both

Rain vs. Wind: The pros and cons of running in eachWeather conditions for a race were never worse – in my experience – than the 2014 Eastern States 20-miler. It was 38 degrees, raining with winds gusting at 30-35 mph. I suppose the only thing that could have been worse is if the heavy rain that pounded the New Hampshire seacoast all morning kept going throughout the race – or maybe if it changed to sleet. Luckily the heavy stuff let up before the start but it was the kind of race that drained you physically and mentally.

Another tough weather race was the 2014 Slattery’s Turkey Trot 5-miler. It was 28 degrees with 30-35 mph winds, gusting close to 40 mph at times (I came home from that race to find my patio table had been lifted off my deck and deposited in my backyard). At one point a particularly harsh gust sent most of the runners bending sharply at the waist and bowing their heads to avoid the blast of road sand.

So what’s worse, rain or wind? And how can you best deal with the worst that Mother Nature throws at you?

Con: Wind messes with your vision. Your eyes water and you have to deal with potential dirt and debris. Your instinct will be to close your eyes – but that’s probably when you’ll end up stepping in a pothole.

  • Tip: Wear sunglasses on windy days, even if it is cloudy. They’ll act as a defacto windshield.

Con: Wind is loud, and the blowing in your ears can be a distraction. On very cold days, it can chill the insides of your ears.

  • Tip: Wear a hat that covers your ears or on warmer days, wear a headband over your ears.

Con: While if you are running an out-and-back race and it is windy, you have at least the consolation that any headwind will also be a tailwind at some point during the race – but don’t expect it to even out your time. The time you lose during the headwind will not be made up during the tailwind section. And crosswinds push you around enough to hurt your time as well. If it is a point-to-point race and you have a tailwind the entire way, count yourself lucky.

  • Tip: Wear tight-fitting clothing. It won’t grab the wind as much and slow you down.

Pro: Wind will help keep you cool. The body perspires to help you cool down and the effect of wind across damp skin will help prevent overheating. But beware: this can also lead to hypothermia or chills if you don’t dress correctly.

  • Tip: Despite the cooling affect of wind, don’t neglect hydration. And wear synthetic or wicking clothing that will bring perspiration away from your skin to prevent getting chilled.

Con: In steady, heavy rain, everything gets wet. Rain pants, rain jackets, rain hats are no match for heavy rain. The worst thing to get wet is your feet. You’ll increase your chances of getting blisters, plus wet shoes = heavy shoes.

  • Tip: Two things can help keep your feet dry(ish). First, wear thin socks that dry well – preferably a thin, wool, and synthetic-blend. Second, try trail-running shoes. These shoes – especially with a Goretex outer layer – tend to have more rain shucking ability than road running shoes.
  • Tip: Chafing from running in wet weather is a hidden menace. If you think you are going to get wet on your running, double up on how much and where you apply any anti-chaffing ointments or lotions.

Con: Like wind, raindrops on your face and in your eyes will make it difficult to see. If you run on the road, it will also make it difficult for drivers to see you.

  • Tip: Wear a hat. It’s won’t keep your head dry but it will keep the raindrops from directly hitting your face.

Con: Race cancellation. Heavy rain sometimes brings the chance of thunderstorms, which is one of the rare weather events that could cancel a race.

Pro: Rain, like wind, will help keep you cool. If it is not very cold and you dress in light enough clothing the rain won’t be much of factor and it will keep you cool. If it is warm and you are dealing with heavy rain or even moderate showers, I would advise to not even bother with a jacket. Just deal with getting a little wet. It’s not worth the aggravation of running in a now wet and maybe heavy vest or jacket.

Which one do you think is worse: rain or wind?

Written by Rob Haneisen.