Tailwinds may help runners in the 121st Boston Marathon

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
April 17, 2017, 2:24:54 AM EDT

On April 17, more than 32,000 runners will race 26 miles to the finish line of the 121st Boston Marathon.

Athletes participating in the world’s oldest annual marathon can expect to race in dry and blustery conditions with west to northwest winds averaging 15-25 mph and gusts up to 30 mph.

Winds may be a challenge for some runners and a boost for others.

The effect of the wind will be to push the runners in the back at times. At other times, a crosswind will push the runners on the left side.

"In 2011, there was a wind at my back, and I had one of the easiest marathons of my life," said certified running coach Nick Joannidis, a three-time Boston Marathon participant.

"That was the year a lot of records were set on the course," he said.

In addition to a gusty wind, actual temperatures will rise through the 60s during the race, following temperatures soaring into the 80s on Easter Sunday.

Boston Marathon

Runners approach the finish line of the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

“Of course, there’s no such thing as a cool marathon,” said AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams. “If you run that distance, you’re going to be perspiring. The worst ones are when it rains or it’s either around 80 degrees and high humidity – it gets very steamy,” he said.

The majority of runners tend to favor cooler weather around 50-55 degrees with low humidity, said Runner's World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso.

Monday is likely to be dry for runners, with the humidity predicted to drop to around 40 percent.

The sky condition is likely to range from sunny to partly cloudy.

“A little bit of cloud cover is a big help, because there’s no shade on the Boston Marathon course until you finish,” according to Yasso.

While Monday’s forecast may not be ideal for every runner, Yasso said it’s still crucial for athletes to be prepared to encounter a variety of conditions.

In general, the weather in Boston and the surrounding areas changes often during mid-April.

“There’s no such thing as scripted weather, but you have to adjust,” Yasso said.

As the marathon’s history has shown, sometimes even the utmost preparation can be thwarted by an unexpected change in weather.

In 1976, runners raced during one of the hottest Boston Marathons on record, facing scorching temperatures of 96 F for much of the first half of the course.

In stark contrast, temperatures were in the mid-40s with wind gusts around 15 mph during the 2015 Boston Marathon, according to the Boston Athletic Association.


Cutbert Nyasango, of Zimbabwe, douses himself with water as he runs through Wellesley, Mass., during the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Joannidis, who ran the marathon in 2015, said many runners required medical treatment for hypothermia due to cold and rainy conditions.

“Wind in any direction, rain, snow and humidity are all other factors that impact race conditions,” said Joannidis.

“These are all exacerbated by other factors such as a runner's age, sex – women are more prone to hyponatremia, [which is caused by] drinking too much water during a long athletic contest – conditioning, injury history and consuming too few electrolytes during the race,” he said.

Training in a different climate than where the race takes place is another factor for runners to consider.

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“You can be living in a very warm climate through training and be wearing shorts and sleeveless tops, and then you get to Boston and it’s 45 degrees,” said Mindy Solkin, professional running coach and founder of The Running Center. “You have to change up a bit.”

With no rain expected on Monday, runners will be able to remain as dry as possible before the start of the race.

This helps the runners’ bodies produce heat once they begin running. The dry air and gusty winds will whisk perspiration away.

“The worst thing is to be cold at the start, and that’s what you have to avoid,” said Yasso. “Your body starts shivering when you’re cold; it’s burning energy to keep you warm.”

Even in the absence of record-setting temperatures this year, the 121st Boston Marathon will still be a historic event.

Among the tens of thousands of runners will be Kathrine Switzer.

The athlete will run the race for the first time in 50 years after being nearly yanked off the course by a marathon official due to her gender in 1967.

AccuWeather.com will continue to update the Boston Marathon forecast with the latest information in the days leading up to the race.

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