“What do you do when it rains?”
This is among the inner circle of Common Comments I receive, reigning with How Far Do You Run; Do You Shower; That’s So Impressive; and I Could Never Do That. If I might answer them in reverse order: you can do far more than you think; when you realize what you can do, that will be impressive; no shower, but I’m a clean-up ace; five miles; and, to answer the first, at the risk of sounding flip:
I get wet.
To be fair, run commuters will ask of themselves something similar: what do I do when it rains? How do I keep my gear dry, and keep from becoming an absolutely sodden mess? Let’s talk rain wear, dry bags, planning for your rainy run and soggy jogging, and how puddles and downpours can quench your thirst for adventure and joy.
A snow storm the last week of January 2014 led Atlanta to go completely FUBAR. We are expecting another storm today, potentially accumulating a half- to full inch of ice. It’s going to be bonkers: grocery stores pillaged for milk, bread, and eggs; schools and offices closed for days; slipping and sliding; riots and looting; and kids gleefully blasting down all possible inclines on makeshift sleds. So far it is only rain and my office was open until noon, so I ran in.
If you choose to run in the rain, whether commuting or training, you must first accept that you are going to get wet. Inevitable, this. Embrace it. Expect it. Even a sprinkle or mist can after a few miles drench your clothes like high summer. A mile in, your shoes can with every step squeak and squish. You’ll get used to it. Just like beginning a routine of run commuting, your mentality is foremost.
You’ll notice in the above photograph that I am wearing a rain jacket. Normally I would not, even in the heaviest rains, and I don’t advocate their necessity. No material is more water resistant and breathable than your skin: consider that. Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes in a rain shell at any level of exertion above a moderate walk knows what a quagmire it can become. Your action-generate bayou can lead you to wonder whether it’s worth wearing. So if you do feel the need for a rain shell, seek one that has several discreet vents. This is a Patagonia TorrentShell, with some sweet pit-zippers that let out a lot of my heat. Not all of it, though.
Yet that heat is why I opted today for the rain jacket, and its best area of use: winter rain. The temperature was about 39 degrees when I departed. My legs would be fine for five miles but that cold rain will zap your core temperature quickly. The rain jacket keeps that heat where I need it, while keeping the heavens’ chilly deluge from soaking into my shirt. Again, though, come spring, summer, and fall: shirt only.
Addendum: you will need to plan ahead for somewhere to discreetly wring your clothes out. After changing, tote them in a plastic grocery bag to the restroom, and squeeze ’em into the sink (or toilet
Your bag is going to get wet, too, so think about a dry bag. Some bags, like those by Osprey, feature an integrated rain cover that pulls from a hidden compartment. Pretty nifty. My bag: no such thing. I picked up a Sea to Summit dry bag, not only for its water repellant properties but its compression. It cinches from the top and holds my things in place, so nothing shifts into my bag, and things won’t jangle and collide.
Again, you don’t need specialized gear purchases for this. I’ve made do with two plastic grocery bags, usually the heavier type you get from race expos; I’d put one inside the other, mouths opposed, and rain remained at bay. Prepping your dry bag is much like doing so for your pack. Roll your clothes, stuff them carefully inside, and try to keep heavier items closer to where it will rest on your back. I like to put something flat and soft, like a pair of pants, on the back-facing part, to assure I won’t get poked should something shift. You’ll be surprised how much can be compressed into these suckers. Behold, and remember, this excludes my lunch and a few other items:
PLANNING, PUDDLES, AND RELISHING RAIN
Rain commuting is little different from regular run commuting, as I have said. Most notably, you’ll be checking the weather forecast routinely. It is not bad practice to keep some plastic bags at the office, in case it is sunny when you decide you’ll run home, but a squall descends. Too, as mentioned above, consider the logistics of dealing with clothes that will be wetter than when merely sweaty. And heading home in the rain is of less consequence. There you have all you need for disposal, cleanup, and squeegeeing.
Here’s where the fun of rain running, and rain run commuting, enters: the chaos. It will completely alter the atmosphere of what sometimes can become a stuffy routine. The sounds, smells, sights are all different: cars humming down roads shimmering with rain; amber street lamps beaming like beacons all around; an added challenge in a downpour, like nature pushing back against you, or refreshing if it is a mist or drizzle. Skipping over puddles, leaping ditches that overflow.
Occasionally a car will hit a gutter or deep puddle, sending a wave crashing up and into you. What can you do then but laugh? From start to finish, embrace a rain commute and reap from it what enjoyment you can.