Blog: Should You Walk or Run in the Rain to Stay Dry?

11 August 2017

Those unpredictable outbursts of rain we’ve been having can only mean one thing, British summertime has officially rolled around again (hurrah). Finally you’re able to justify a trip to the seaside, as you’re convinced that you spotted a cheeky bit of sun peeking out from behind the clouds earlier (right?). Don’t forget sporting those legs with pride in winter-like weathers and enjoying ice lollies as your fingers turn blue, all while fearing to leave the house without your trusty raincoat – just as a precaution.

For most of us, when we feel that first drop of rain hit, our brains’ natural response is to dart towards the nearest sign of cover. But is it possible that you could in fact stay drier when the cats and dogs start if you took your time instead?

This question has actually caused a lot of controversy in the realm of maths and physics. Back in the 1970s, (only 70s kids will remember) several different scientists had a crack at the problem but the results were pretty conflicting. After seemingly getting nowhere, they eventually decided to dry their hands of it. (You could say they were only testing the waters, hehe.)

In 1987 an Italian researcher picked up the dispute. He claimed that neither tactic made a difference – you were gonna be drenched either way (soz).

It wasn’t until 2011 that a conclusion was made which is yet to be challenged (give it time). Textile expert and physicist, Prof Bocci said that the problem was down to the shape of you (try not to get that song stuck in your head all day). He criticized the previously published work for assuming that people were either thin sheets or upright rectangles (talk about putting people into boxes).

In order to calculate the optimal speed, you’ll need to know your height to breadth ratio, the direction of the wind and the size of the raindrops. I’m sure you’ve got the time to spend collecting this data each time you’re caught in the rain, but on the off chance that you haven’t, Bocci has got you covered (you can put away your protractors now).

By putting his trigonometry to the test, Prof Bocci managed to work out the optimal speed to travel at in the rain for lots of different scenarios by altering different factors each time. He determined that if you are head on with the direction of the wind, then legging it is your best bet. However, if the wind is behind you, you want to aim to walk at the exact same speed as the wind.

How about that!

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A man with an umbrella in the rain