Jen & Sim Benson are runners, writers, photographers and all-round outdoor adventure experts. Their new book, Short Runs in Beautiful Places (£12.99, National Trust Books) is out now. Find out more at www.adventureplaces.co.uk
When you live somewhere like the UK it’s hard to avoid running in wet weather, even with the arrival of spring and sunnier skies, you can’t always avoid the April showers or cold snap. So, for those of us who love to run on trails, a tactical approach to wet weather training is essential for making sure your running is enjoyable all year round.
Endless rain, like we saw at the beginning of 2020, means lots of mud for off-road runners. Shoes with deep, widely spaced studs will give you the best grip in muddy, slippery conditions and shed dirt quickly once you’re through.
If you’re running in places with lots of puddles or wet grass, Gore-Tex lined shoes can be an excellent choice for keeping water out. Bear in mind, though, that they’re also good at keeping water in, so if you’re going to be running through deep water opt for a quick-draining shoe instead.
Waterproof socks can work brilliantly, particularly on longer runs where your feet might otherwise stay wet for hours. Sim ran the Cheviot Goat Ultra in December in a pair of Sealskinz socks and finished with dry feet, even after many hours of wading through Northumbrian bogs.
A good waterproof running jacket combines protection from the elements with comfort, freedom of movement, and enough venting so you don’t overheat.
Getting soaked with sweat inside your waterproof jacket is definitely counterproductive. Look for a good, adjustable hood that fits snugly, even in windy conditions, and a stiffened peak to channel water away from your face.
We’ve recently been testing out Aussie Grit’s Focus Jacket, which has been updated for 2020. Made from a 2.5-layer fabric it offers plenty of wet weather protection, while being light and packable enough to stash in a race vest when not in use. There’s a decent, adjustable, vented hood and underarm vents to keep you comfortable when you’re working hard. The overall feel of the jacket is soft and protective, rather than rustly, and it’s a welcome garment to put on when the weather takes a turn for the worse while you’re out on the hills.
For the past two years we’ve both used the Focus jacket in the Imber Ultra – an exposed, wild and windswept 33-mile run around Salisbury Plain in March – and much appreciated its good features and coverage.
Undies and Accessories
In wet weather it’s even more important to make sure the fabrics next to your skin are comfortable and moisture-wicking.
Merino wool keeps its natural temperature-regulating properties well even when wet but can soak up more water than a synthetic alternative. Everything chafes more in the wet, too, so you might want to consider an anti-chafe balm – we’re fans of the excellent and all-natural Squirrel’s Nut Butter.
While it might be good for weather protection, running with your hood up can make it difficult to hear traffic or other people. A cap is a great alternative, keeping your head covered and diverting water away from your eyes. In cold weather gloves are wise addition – and mean you can avoid the irritation of fumbling freezing fingers.
Finally, if you’re carrying any kit it’s important to keep that dry, too. Dry bags come in a range of sizes so find one that fits snugly inside your pack – and one for your mobile phone, too.