Wind can be a big factor in running. While wind at a runner’s back can make them feel like they’re flying, a steady wind in the face can make even an easy run feel dreadful.
Here’s some advice on how runners should manage wind and things to consider when assessing their goals for the day. A windy day doesn’t equal a no-run day, but it might change your outcome.
How much does wind affect performance?
When considering the difference that wind makes (especially over the marathon distance) consider how beneficial drafting is. Key research findings on this topic come from a paper that’s over 50 years old but found that significantly less energy was used (as much as 6.5 per cent less) when running behind another person.
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The change that someone feels when they’re drafting behind someone is similar to the difficulty they feel when they’re faced with wind. The same paper found that in a 5,000m race the energy cost of battling wind resistance was about eight per cent. This means that when faced with windy conditions, a runner was using eight per cent more energy to run the same time. This translates to roughly 72 seconds over a 15-minute 5K.
All of these metrics are relative to how fast you’re moving (and how fast the wind is moving against you), but regardless, show that wind can have a big impact on finishing time.
If it’s a workout day
If you’re faced with big wind on workout day, adjust your expectations but don’t let it concern you too much. This just means that today’s tough workout is going to feel a little tougher. Workout day is for testing the limits and less-than-ideal conditions help you do that.
In order to not completely demoralize yourself, try and plan a route where the wind is at your back at least some of the time. This won’t completely negate the wind in your face, but it will help. Also, save the less-windy portion of your run for the end. No one wants to turn into the wind just as things are getting really tough.
If it’s an easy run day
If it’s an easy day, opting for the treadmill or cross-training over an outdoor run is a possibility. This all depends on how hard your week has been and how you’re feeling in general. If you need a really easy day and the conditions outside aren’t allowing for that, don’t hesitate to move it indoors.
If it’s race day
Like any race day, a runner has to consider conditions and adjust accordingly. The good news is, everyone is dealing with the same crappy conditions. The bad news is, you’re more likely to make a pacing mistake.
Take Lynday Tessier’s 2019 World Championship marathon performance, for example. She was running in extreme heat, and therefore needed to adjust her expectations. Her coach told her to not even consider pushing the pace until 10K to go. The pace they settled on was about 15-20 seconds slower than her usual race pace. This allowed Tessier to place ninth in a World Championship. Her conservative approach and assessment of the conditions was her saving grace.
If race day is extremely windy, a runner has to consider how they’re going to tackle their event. On race day, drafting is the easiest and most effective tactic to employ. If the wind is extreme, padding (at minimum) the first half of your race with a few extra seconds is a good idea. Remember: you’re working harder to run the same time.