running

How Does Weather Affect Performance at the NU Hartford Marathon?

This past Saturday I ran the NU Hartford Half-Marathon…reluctantly. When I got out of bed at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, it was clear that the forecast of cold and wet weather was  accurate. It was about 46 degrees and rainy, and the radar showed no signs of relief. However, because I was really excited that the new half-marathon course passed right by my house, I threw on my clothes and ran over to the start. And… I had a blast! Because it was grey and rainy, I had no expectations of any time and just ran the course for fun. The wet weather took away any pressure or need to try and run well and I felt relaxed and happy the entire course. So, afterwards, I found myself wondering how the weather conditions typically influence performance at the Hartford Marathon. We know how temperature in general influences athletic performance (there’s a sweet spot of prime finishing speed around 50 degrees), but what about specifically at Hartford? Do rain, wind and temperature dramatically alter performance?

I could answer this question by looking at the data of average race finish times from 2000-2014 archived at Marathon Guide. I chose average finish time (the mean time of all finishers) rather than the male and female winning times because  in a smaller race such as Hartford, the latter are influenced more by the strength of the field than the race conditions. I then went to the National Weather Station data from Weather Underground for our nearest weather station (Windsor Locks) and pulled the historical weather data for each day the marathon was run.  I chose minimum daily temperature (since the race is run at 8 a.m.), average daily temperature, precipitation (rainfall) and average wind speed as variables, and then graphed them versus average marathon finishing speed (fastest to slowest).  If there was a relationship between any of these weather variables and race time, I’d see it.

And the end result? Average marathon time in Hartford is NOT overtly affected by temperature (either minimum or average), as the graphs below indicate.  Nor is it dramatically influenced by rain; for example, the graph below of rainfall shows that while the second slowest marathon average time DID occur in 2005 (when there was a severe weather event producing over 4 inches or rain), the slowest marathon average time was achieved on a dry, temperate day. Similarly, a day with 1.5 inches of rainfall produced the second fastest finishing time.

Presentation2Now, when I made the data categorical rather than continuous for rain (rainy vs. dry) and wind (single digit versus double digit average wind speed), it does appear that wind speed has a slight (approximately 5 minute) slowing influence on average finishing time. This is to be expected, especially on a loop course such as Hartford where, on a windy day, the wind will at some point be opposing you.Presentation1Obviously there are some limitations to this retrospective data analysis. For example, when looking at precipitation, I had no idea whether the average rainfall recorded occurred in the morning (i.e., during race time) or before/after the race. The same holds true for average wind speed data. I also had no idea how quickly the day warmed (thus influencing the validity of using minimum temperature), and how other non-weather variables (such as course changes) influenced the relationship between weather and performance. So, take my results with a grain of salt, but it appears that performance at the NU Hartford Marathon holds pretty steady through changing temperatures and weather conditions. Run on!

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7 thoughts on “How Does Weather Affect Performance at the NU Hartford Marathon?

  1. Interesting stuff! Disappointing though…I was hoping you’d tell me that if it’s cold and raining I might as well stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head! 😉

    • Because I think the people who have trained hard and committed are in no matter what and they are likely to have faster times due to their dedication.

      • I ran the half and had the BEST run of my life regardless of the weather. Nothing was going to stop me from running. I did not even feel the rain. I did feel the cold after I stopped and my legs locked up but other than that what an awesome experience!

  2. I love data, I love running, so I love this post. I actually did my best time ever at the Hartford Half, go figure! I had a blast too, rainy weather and all it was really fun. It did got miserable when I stopped running.

  3. I love to run when it is raining. I walked the 5K this year because of bad knees. I had a blast, no pressure….I was just walking. I trained fora full marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society about 4/5 years ago. I ended up doing the half-marathon because of injuries. I remembered that it was very humid in the morning and I overdressed as I usually do because I am always cold. It was very hard for me. I was very sluggish. I finished the half-marathon at a very slower than I used to run while in training. I blamed on the humidity but I was also injured and limping. I am from a tropical island so I should be used to the humidity but I am not when it comes to physical activities. So I welcomed the rain this year. I only wished that my arthritic, left knee was not bothering so I could run it.

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