Tips for Running a Marathon in a Hurricane

When I was one of the fortunate ones this past spring to register for the 37th running of the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in Washington DC, I envisioned several challenges to making it through 26.2 miles—battling a hurricane was not one of them.

I didn’t think DC would be hit with a heat wave like the one that stopped the Chicago Marathon in 2007. However, ever since I registered for the MCM I have wondered if it would be cold on race day. After all, the northeast can get chilly by the end of October. If so, I would be ready. I already conquered cold this past February in, of all places, Birmingham, Alabama when I ran the Mercedes Marathon with a race-start temperature of 22 degrees. By the time I arrived at the first water station, there were chunks of ice in my water. By the second station, where I could have benefited from ice skates in order to keep moving, I had to crush the paper cup to break the ice before I could drink. At the next station is where I discovered that Powerade makes great slushies. I even saw a runner with icicles in her pony tail. So, I’m ready for cold—but a hurricane?

This past weekend I checked the race-day weather report for DC and was pleased to see a perfect forecast for running—lows only in the upper 40s and highs in the 70s, with some clouds. Perfect. But perfect didn’t last long. This was before Hurricane Sandy decided to make a trek up the east coast. Now the race-day forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain and wind speeds of about 24 MPH. Great!

I’m altering my drive up from Atlanta for the race. Instead of heading up the east coast on I95, I will now head up to someplace like Minnesota and drive in from the west. Hopefully, this way I will miss the rain and resulting freeway pileups in the Carolinas and Richmond. Yet, the greatest alteration is going to be how I prepare for running in a hurricane.

Thankfully, my last long run included some rain and wind. And while the 30,000 of us are well into taper-mode, we can make some last minute preparations for this soon to be memorable 37th MCM race. Therefore, here are a few tips for preparing to run in a hurricane:

10 Steps to Prepare for Running in a Hurricane

  1. Several days before the race, put on your race-day running gear, including your shoes and socks. Fill your bath tub with 6 inches of water. Now, step into the tub. Next turn on the shower, (be sure to use cold water), and stand there for 5 minutes—being sure to fully soak yourself from head to toe. Do not empty the water from the tub.
  2. Once you are satisfied you are thoroughly soaked, walk carefully—so as not to slip and fall—to a treadmill and begin your training run. Your treadmill should be carefully positioned 5 feet from an industrial fan with a wind speed of at least 40 MPH.
  3. Every 1.5 miles walk back to the shower and, again, step into the tub and run the shower for a minute. Return to the treadmill for another 1.5 miles.
  4. While hydration should not be much of a problem during this race, determine how often you plan to take advantage of the water stations. It is critical you practice drinking from a small paper cup directly in front of the fan. In the event the race volunteers are unable to keep the wind from blowing away the water and Powerade cups, mentally prepare to wait for the volunteers to pour individual cups of beverage and hand them, one by one, to the runners—because of the long lines, allow for 33 minute hydration stops.
  5. Once you have finished your training run, go to the kitchen and grab a bagel, just as you would do after a race. However, this time you need to dip your bagel in a bowl of water for 15 seconds before eating. With a little practice you can master eating soggy post-race bagels and not look like a racing-in-the-rain rookie. For those who may wonder, rain-soaked bananas, packages of pretzels and water bottles should not cause any problems other than being slightly slippery.
  6. Don’t wear your racing shoes and socks to the race. Keep them dry up until you check your bag. When it’s time to check your bag, simply put on a clean and dry pair of socks and your racing shoes. Do this and you will thank me for the 2 minutes of dry comfort. Be sure to bring a small hand towel to dry your wet feet before donning the clean and dry footwear.
  7. This is not the race to wear thick socks!
  8. On race day, wear a plastic garbage bag to keep your body dry up until your corral hits the starting line. This is the one, and only, time other runners will not mock you for wearing a garbage bag prior to a race.
  9. Be sure to enclose all electronics, including your phone, in a waterproof Ziploc bag and safely stored in your Fuel Belt.
  10. Most importantly, plan now to proudly tell your story of conquering 26.2 in Hurricane Sandy!

What are your suggestions for running in a hurricane?


Race Day Forecast for MCM 


14 responses to this post.

  1. Love this. Great advice about keeping shoes dry until bag check. Good luck!! See you Sunday.


  2. LOL Love it! 🙂 I will be out there too! Good luck!


  3. Hilarious. I’ll be right there with you.


  4. this was great! see ya at the start on sunday morn!


  5. […] you may be facing gusting winds and a torrential downpour. You might want to take a peak at these tips for running a marathon in a […]


  6. Posted by dari on October 26, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Omg, the funniest thing I’ve read in a while. I can’t wait to do this! Best of luck on your run, Jack. Fast or slow it’ll be one for the books…


    • Posted by jackwbruce on October 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks Dari. Glad you enjoyed it. I enjoyed writing it and have also enjoyed the conversation that has resulted on FB & Twitter. Have a great race! – jack


  7. Posted by Chris on October 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    This spring I ran a half marathon in the pouring rain! I guess I will add a full marathon. It’s my first marathon as well. Should prove for an interesting story!!


    • Posted by jackwbruce on October 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      The first time I ran in the rain was my first Half Marathon. I’ve learned to sprinkle in a few training runs in the rain–just in case. -jack


  8. […] to call it, is heading toward the east coast, we enjoyed this post from Jack Bruce who provides his tips for running in a hurricane.  It’s a humorous guide to preparing for something you never thought you’d have to […]


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