The French Open tennis enjoyed blazing sunshine last week, but today the weather in Paris turned cool, breezy and wet. Summer’s here!
Tennis, like cricket, comes to a halt when the rain starts. Both sports could do well to follow the example of the Queen, unperturbed by the damp conditions during the recent Jubilee flotilla on the Thames.
Just like Her Majesty, runners don’t mind the rain – most of the time, anyway. Back in the mid-1990s, an Irish television pundit complained about one of our Olympians, a middle-distance athlete, who allegedly stopped his training sessions if it rained. This runner was training in Ireland, so you can imagine the disruption.
If you’re training for a race, you had better get used to being out in wet weather. After all, if it rains on the day of your marathon or 10k, what are you going to do – stay in bed and do it the next day instead?
There’s no harm in waiting a few minutes for a shower to pass before you leave the house to start your training run. But calling off your run because of rain, or taking shelter when a few drops fall while you’re out on your route… well, that’s not really the attitude that’ll get you to the finish line on your big day.
If you think it’ll rain during your run, there are some preparations you can make. First, remember that wet weather is often mild, so you don’t need extra layers. I find that a waterproof top, with some ventilation, and a hood or cap are protection enough on top of my normal running gear. You don’t want to overdress and get bogged down in wet clothes, especially cotton, so think twice before you wear a tracksuit in wet weather.
An essential piece of rainy-day kit is Vaseline or some similar product. Wet clothes cause chafing, so make sure you smear the stuff wherever you’ll have friction – notably the inner thighs. I finished last year’s Dublin Marathon just in time to escape a torrential downpour, but others weren’t so lucky – later I saw one finisher, dressed in his civilian clothes, walking bow-legged like John Wayne at a gunfight. Chafing plus denim jeans equals great pain. (This calls to mind another tip; your post-race clothes should be soft, light and loose.)
And lads, rainy-day chafing is murder on the male nipple – I’ve seen many men finishing a race with two streaks of red down the front of their cotton t-shirts. (After a few damp training runs, I’ve been that soldier too.) A bit of Vaseline there too, please. Some men put on sticking plasters, but they can come off if they get soaked.
There are a few advantages to rainy-day training. The streets on your route will be quieter than usual, with less pedestrians and dogs to trip you up. People will think you’re a rock-hard lunatic, which is always gratifying. And when else can you splash around and get wet in public, while everyone else cowers under shelter? Running in the rain can give you a sense of freedom and daring that’s rare in our grown-up lives.
That said, be careful with slippery surfaces like manhole covers and ornamental paving. Watch out for drivers and cyclists with reduced visibility. And remember that lightning is dangerous enough to warrant an exception. One evening a few weeks ago I got caught in a thunderstorm, with a spectacular hilltop view of lightning over Paris. Then I recalled the metal key in the pocket of my shorts. It’s safe to say I broke world records and speed limits tearing down the hill and home that night.
There’s probably some touchy-feely life lesson to be drawn from running in wet weather – how you should live your life as carefree as if you’re dancing in the rain, or something like that. But we won’t let the self-help book stuff spoil our mood. So, all I’m saying is this: go running in the rain – it’s great fun!