This weekend’s NYC Marathon was quite windy and blustery. The impact of the wind is easy to under estimate. Studies have shown that the energy cost differential of running outside (even on a still day) vs. indoors on the treadmill is significant. This is because you are developing a headwind outdoors vs. running in still air on the treadmill. This leads to the scientifically supported recommendation from coaches to increase the treadmill to a 1% incline to simulate outdoor running.
That said, if you have a blustery day like yesterday the impact is even more significant. At points, runners would have faced 8+ mph winds, add in an average pace of 6-7 mph and everyone is pushing into a 14 mph headwind. If your day yesterday was tough, this may be a very good reason. The energy cost differential, while perceived as sustainable early in the race, will cost you dearly toward the end of the race unless you account for it in your race strategy.
All cyclists know the advantages of slippery bike shapes, deep section wheels, and reduction of frontal surface area on race performance and cycling economy. Moreover, at higher speeds the wind resistance impact curve gets steeper and steeper. It is not a linear relationship. Finally, a vertical runner in loose running clothing is far from an optimized aerodynamic shape.
So what does this mean? Hide in the lee of the pack as much as possible to reduce the impact of a windy day and get used to running closer to others in training. Channel the cyclist in you and be tactical about where you are in the group throughout your race. Hide behind the tall runners, make moves when the wind is with you and not against you and preserve your energy for when you most need it, which is at the end of the race. It’s fun and engages your mind throughout the race as well.
Run fast, run smart.