2018 is rapidly coming to a close and the grey, wet days of the Pacific Northwest winter are setting in with a vengeance. People who know that I’m a runner often ask me, “what do you do when it’s raining?” My answer? I get wet!
Yes, I will do pretty much anything I can to keep my training runs outside and off the treadmill. First and foremost, I really can’t stand running on what has been referred to as “Satan’s Sidewalk.” I’m one of those who finds it far easier – physically and mentally – to run outside. For me, the changing scenery and terrain are a vital part of my training and something I truly look forward to. My other main reason for running outside as much as I can is because I actually want to run in as many weather conditions – especially adverse weather – as I can. And I have a very good reason for this. I don’t get to choose the weather on race day.
I’ve run the Chicago Marathon twice. In 2017, it was in the upper 80s with sun beating mercilessly down by the time I finished. This year, it was drizzly at the start of the race and cool, sometimes downright chilly, throughout. When I ran the New York City Half Marathon a few years ago, the days leading up to the race were lovely – I roamed around NYC without a coat and looked forward to a lovely spring run. I woke up race day morning to freezing temperatures, strong crosswinds for most of the last half of the run, and it started snowing while I was walking back to my hotel after the race. My point is that weather is unpredictable. Getting experience with some of the more extreme or unpleasant weather conditions will be an advantage when your race day forecast changes at the last minute.
However, there are a couple of caveats. I won’t run outside when weather conditions are dangerous. Lightning, high winds, poor air quality, or hail will keep me inside. If it’s too icy, I won’t run on the roads and will either drive to a nearby school track (and 12 miles on a track is almost as bad as the treadmill) or rearrange my training schedule. There are a couple of indoor tracks nearby and, although I don’t have easy access to them, that would be my next option if it looked like it would be several days before I could safely run outdoors. Also, I do make sure I have appropriate clothing and gear for the weather conditions. For the winter I practically live in my fleece-lined running tights. I have heavier- and lighter-weight gloves and headgear depending on the temperature. Layering is essential – it’s easy to take a layer off if you get too warm. And while I’m still searching for a holy-grail running jacket for heavier rain, I invested in the Brooks Canopy Jacket earlier in the season (it’s the same jacket Desi Linden wore in her Boston win), which has kept me mostly dry through all of our Puget Sound drizzle, so far.
I highly encourage everyone to at least give running outside in less-than-ideal weather a chance. Some people even discover they like running in the rain (I haven’t heard of anybody saying they love heat and humidity, though). Ultimately, though, it’s finding out what works best for you.
Happy Running and Happy New Year!