Runners spend a lot of the summer trying to find the optimal conditions to run–that’s why you’ll hear of folks hitting the streets at 5 a.m. or 10 p.m. to avoid the heat of the day. But what are optimal running conditions, really? Podium Runner ran a story last week about how much your performance can decrease due to heat, but they also brought forward two studies that suggest the best weather conditions for runners of all paces.
A 2012 study in the Public Library of Science looked at the results of six marathons and considered four environmental factors: temperature, humidity, dew point, and the atmospheric pressure at sea level. From their data, they found that temperature played the biggest role in both speed and withdrawal rates. Researchers found that most non-elite marathon runners (those with finishing times between 3:30 and 5:00) found optimal conditions around 7 C or 44 F.
A 2019 study looked exclusively at Boston Marathon finishers and their finishing times in conjunction with the weather on that day. The second study found that considering average temperature, performances were better for men between 8–15 C and for women 0-7 C.”
This is very good news for your fall marathon, and also good news for your summer training. While running in the heat has been shown to increase perceived effort, both the fall and spring will likely have optimal running conditions, meaning that your difficult summer-heat training will pay dividends in the future. Paces that once felt barely manageable under the sweltering sun might feel entirely possible come race day.