Calm, Cool & Collected: Staying Warm and Dry on Race Day

Calm, Cool & Collected: Staying Warm and Dry on Race Day

High-fives for my family at Mile 6. I’m rocking my Boston Strong Headsweats hat. Photo by Tina Florance



Race day weather was something the 2018 Boston Marathoners obsessed over for weeks, and I think we were all in denial. “I want to run in freezing rain, bone-chilling temperatures and fierce headwinds” said no one, ever. We could hear the ominous howling winds from our hotel rooms the night before. Even the hotel housekeepers were handing out cards with the weather forecast for race day, including the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” We knew bad weather was coming, and there was nothing we, the runners, could do about it.

If you watched the news reports from Boston, you saw clips of just how outrageous the weather turned out to be. The Boston Athletic Association informed us these were the worst conditions the race had seen in over 30 years. Temperature at the start was 30 degrees Fahrenheit, headwinds were clocked at 20-30 mph, along with torrential downpours that were nonstop from Hopkinton to Boston. It was as they predicted, and it was as we had feared. Of the 27,000 starting participating, 2,500 runners received medical treatment on course and at the finish line, with the majority of cases being hypothermia.

Runners either loved or hated these conditions. My sense is the biggest part of how one “weathered” the storm that day had a great deal to do with how they prepared for it. So, just how do you prepare for this kind of weather? Along the miles, I observed a lot of different tricks runners came up with in their attempt at staying warm and dry and I’d like to share them with you in hopes we all can learn from the successes, as well as the failures, of this year’s Boston Marathon or, as I like to say “our 26.2-mile swim from Hopkinton to Boston.” With proper planning and preparation, I managed to stay semi warm, avoid a trip to the medical tent and, most importantly, finish. Here are my tips on how to stay warm and somewhat dry for a rainy, cold race day.

 Looking off to the left I saw my family cheering me on. Photo by Tina Florance. 


Start out by wearing “throw away” or unwanted clothes over your race outfit. If you’re going through your closet and are considering throwing out or donating items, you might want to hang on to articles like sweatshirts, baggy pants, or long sleeve shirts, just in case you need to use them as “throw away” clothing for a cold or wet race. Closet already cleaned out and paired down? Visit your local Goodwill or thrift shop and buy items you won’t mind discarding later. Layers keep you warm and dry before your race. Most races donate discarded items to local organizations as a way of serving their community. This year, the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) donated items to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.


Buy a pair of inexpensive gloves before leaving for your race. Some race expos will sell them as well. The worst feeling on race day is cold hands. If your hands are cold, your whole body feels cold, and you won’t be able to open your fuel or hold your water bottle. Once you’ve warmed up and no longer need to wear the gloves, simply discard them along the course (hence purchasing an inexpensive pair) and know they’ll be picked up and donated. Desi Linden, winner of this year’s marathon, showed us warm hands are key, breaking the finish line tape with her outstretched gloved hands.


Headsweats, the world leader in performance headwear, offers a variety of hats for all conditions, seasons, sports and preferences. I wore their Boston Strong performance trucker hat and it kindly kept the rain off my face. If you wear contact lenses, keeping the rain out of your eyes is essential, and why I always reach for my Headsweats trucker hat.  Headsweats also has thermal beaniesrace dayperformance hats, headbands and visors. For 25% off your Headsweats order, use code TRAVELRUNREPEAT at checkout!


Purchase a cheap poncho and carry in your race bag. Most runners kept theirs on for the entire marathon, until they approached the last half mile. No poncho? No worries. Another option is to use a large garbage bag, cutting arm holes on the sides and one at the top for your head. You may not be Project Runway ready but at least you’ll be dry, insulated and warm. Another idea is to reduce, reuse and recycle foil blankets you may have from other races. Never know what you might need one.


Applying liberal amounts of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to your feet will keep them from blistering. It works like a charm! I do this when I know it’s going to rain on race day and they’ve never been blistered. Also, try socks made of merino wool. Merino wool dries quickly and regulates temperature. Merino wool can be used for all seasons. I’ve always had success with CEP compression socks; I used the CEP Outdoor Merino socks this year and they kept my feet warm and dry. WARNING: Do not wear cotton!


Due to the torrential rain, most of us used plastic bags, tightly securing them over our shoes with the use of duct tape or rubber bands. Some opted to apply duct tape directly over their shoes in an attempt to keep the water out and from soaking their feet. Do this in the warmth and comfort of your hotel room so your feet stay dry from the get-go.


Place your race day fuel, such as chews, gels, medications, etc., in a separate Ziploc®-type plastic bag so they do not get wet and begin to dissolve. If carrying your phone, use a separate plastic bag or a waterproof storage bag like aLOKSAK. I always carry all race day essentials in my trusted SPI belt.


Have a dry change of clothes waiting for you at the finish in your drop bag or finish area gear bag. You’ll definitely want to change out of your sopping wet clothes and into dry ones as soon as you finish, especially if you want to stay and enjoy the post-race festivities. You may want to put a hat, like the Headsweats podium hat or reversible beanie in your finish bag to keep you warm as you meander around the finish line area.


Last but not least, your outlook and attitude play a big part in your race experience. Sure, horrible weather can make for an unfavorable race, but your attitude and outlook will carry you a long way. From time to time, I, too, have to remind myself of this. So, here’s my advice … keep a cool head, stay calm and remember my earlier quote, “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” You can’t control the weather, but you can show up prepared, have a great attitude, keep a cool head and let it rain!

– Jill,

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My sister and I walking back to our hotel, post race. Photo by Tina Florance

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