How to Pack for Unpredictable Weather on Long Distance Runs

Runner packing
You might be among the many runners who adore combining your passion for travel with your love for running. Or perhaps you're considering your first long-distance run in a place with variable weather. But many runners have a question: how do you prepare for an unpredictable climate on a long-distance run? What should you have on your packing list? How do you pack for a destination run?
We ask our experts for tips and tricks on how to pack and prepare. Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned travel long-distance runner, let us help you with these tips on what to pack so you can focus your energy where you need it—on the run or race ahead of you.

Destination Runs: Use your Carry-on

Unfortunately, there's always the genuine chance that the airline misplaces your luggage or there is a delay in getting it to you on time. Nothing will ruin a long-distance run faster than realizing you don't have access to any of your running gear. You could attempt to purchase what you need, but as many runners can attest, equipment is personal, and there's the chance you won't be able to buy or find what you need.
Avoid the stress of lost and potentially expensive running gear by packing everything you'll need for the race in your carry-on.
What's a good list of things for your carry-on? 
  • Take out your race-day wardrobe. Everything you will need from head to toe and any underwear you'll wear for the race, and ensure everything is in working order.
  • Do you wear accessories while running? Add a race belt, watch, sunglasses, hat, and earphones, and pile those with your race day clothes.
  • Don't forget any medication or fuel for the race if needed. Make sure to carry any pain medication like Tylenol in an official original, travel-sized pack.
  • Whether you know it will be hot or in a typically hotter climate, you should pack electrolyte tablets to replenish salt lost through sweating and prevent cramping, just in case.
  • If you have a particular brand or flavor of fuel that you love to use during a race, don't forget to pack those. While big races with sponsors may have pop-up stores that sell race fuel, there's no guarantee your brand or preferred flavor will be available, and race day is not a good day to try something new.
  • Remember the 3-1-1 liquids rule for TSA, and pack your gels in your toiletry kit. You can bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes through TSA checkpoints, but they are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. This is the 3-1-1 rule. Gels are technically liquids!
  • While you no doubt carry all your information within a smartphone, take a paper copy with the location, hours of the race, and directions in case of technical issues where your phone won't work or there is no cell reception.

Cold Weather

Some people love running in colder temperatures, while others do not. The difficulty when running a long race or marathon in cold weather is that our bodies need to use energy to keep us warm. The more energy your body uses to stay warm, the less you'll have for the race.
A week or two before the race, find your most worn-out sweats, shirt, pants, ratty or cheapest pair of gloves, and a hat to combat this. These can be articles of clothing you've been meaning to throw out for months or years; if you don't have any sweats or cold-weather clothing, head to the nearest, cheapest department store to buy sweatpants, a hat, and gloves.
Wear warmer clothing items in the corral when standing in the cold. Once you start running, and no doubt, your body will warm up after the first mile, and you can shed the cheap, warmer clothing. Most marathons or runs pick up discarded clothing like this to donate to charity.
Under the toss-away clothing, wear your favorite race layers of moisture-wicking clothing. You'll heat up as the race progresses, and despite the cooler temperatures, having layers to remove to stay cool and not overheat is essential.

Rainy Weather

In most cases, running in the rain won't cause many issues for you or your performance; however, it can make for a less-than-pleasant marathon experience. There's no way to keep 100% dry during a rainy run, but here are a few tips that make it more comfortable:
  • You'll probably be spending much time before the race at the starting line. The corral usually has little in the way of shelter. For a cheap and effective means to stay dry while you wait, take a trash bag, cut a hole in your head, and wear it while you wait. Remember to remove it as soon as the race starts!
  • Will you have friends and family cheering you on throughout the course? Ask them if they would be willing to carry a dry shirt or socks you can swap into between the 15-20 mile mark. Switching your gear out will take a moment or two, but the fresh, dry clothing will give you a mental boost for the final part of the race.
  • Use Vaseline during a cold rain on exposed skin such as hands, legs, and arms. Vaseline is water resistant and will help keep lower legs and hands from getting chilled. However, do not cover your head or neck, as Vaseline does not allow efficient sweating.

Hot Weather

Running in hot temperatures and the weather is considered one of the most challenging elements to race in. It's highly uncomfortable, and it dramatically reduces your performance. To help combat the heat, here are some of our best tips:
  • Pre-cool. Lower your core body temperature before the race starts. While elite runners often have expensive cooling vests, other means exist to do the same without the vest. Dampen and freeze towels overnight to take to the starting line and wrap yourself in them. Enjoy a popsicle or several, and freeze Gatorade or other electrolyte drinks to make a slurry and sip before the race. These methods will cool you down before the start.
  • Pour water on yourself as many times as possible. Cool or cold water on your head and skin can go a long way to lowering the heat and feeling refreshing.
  • Adjust your expectations and your pace. Your body works harder to maintain itself during extreme heat, and many runners mistakenly think they can keep the same goals in 90 degrees they attained in 70 degrees—which often leads to a slow final 10K.
We hope we've been able to help you understand what to pack and how to prepare for variable weather on your next long-distance run. At Fitsok, we love everything running, from how to why, and the gear and socks that keep you going.