How You Will Crush a Windy Race

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You’ve trained really hard, you’re in great shape with a chance to run your best time or a Boston Qualifier, but there’s a giant wind situation predicted. How do you adjust?

First, throw a pity party, stomp your feet, maybe cry a little. Get it out. Things won’t be “perfect”.  Boo!!!! Womp, womp, womp!

Got it out? Good!

Ready to proceed to crush it anyway? GREAT.

First, forget about your time goal (but don’t toss it completely). Here’s what I want to know: what will a successful race look like to you?

Write that down. Maybe it's:

“The last 4 miles are my strongest of the whole race.” 

or

“I couldn’t have raced any smarter or pushed myself any harder.”

Cool, those are both good. Anything else? No rules here, but try to envision yourself at the finish totally satisfied. How’d you get there?

Next, it’s important to realize that people DO RUN WELL WHEN IT'S WINDY (or rainy or cold or hot). How?

They don’t view it as a negative!

Wind just IS. It’s a variable that you need to account for, but it’s not a negative or something that you need to overcome. And it’s definitely not something that you “fight”. Why? Because it will always win.

Here are 3 things you CAN DO to run well during a windy race: 

EVEN EFFORT

Manage your effort intelligently no matter what the conditions are. In a distance race, especially a marathon, this means running a very even, consistent effort. Your pace may fluctuate, but you’ll be most efficient and have more energy late in the race if you avoid fluctuations in energy expenditure. 

Adopting this strategy means you need to stay alert and react to what’s happening. So, if you turn a corner and smack into a headwind, you need to sense into your steady, consistent effort and simply maintain. A heart rate monitor can confirm your effort remains steady, but ideally this is something you can feel and will have honed through training.

I always remind myself to 'relax into the wind' as the temptation to fight or push into it is often strong.

DRAFTING

Tactically, if at all possible, a great strategy is to tuck in and use other racers to shield yourself from the wind. Known as drafting, be advised that sometimes the ideal position may be to the side of another runner. 

 Cyclists know what I'm talking about - this is called an echelon formation.

Cyclists know what I'm talking about - this is called an echelon formation.

The protection you’d get from pack of runners is always more effective - and more ‘fair’ - than a single runner. Bonus feature: running in a group can actually give you energy as you’re all working together towards a common goal.

MINDSET

On a course like Philly that has a lot of turns I still think you can run a good time despite the wind, BUT that is not something you can directly control.

So let's not focus on time. Wind is going to affect your splits - some will be faster, some slower. And wind *may* impact your overall time, but remember that isn't what will make the day a success or not. Right? We talked about this earlier!

What you can control is your mental approach by remaining calm, consistent, and cheering yourself on. Focus on your ability to make good decisions in the moment so you can set yourself up for a strong finish and a satisfying result regardless of time.

Reframe your thoughts around wind. It is what you think it is. 

You think it sucks? You think you’ll run slow because of it? You hate it? You’re right.

Or will you be one of the athletes who crushes it despite the wind? Your call!

PS: For more marathon mindset tips, check out THIS article I wrote for Philly.com!