…and how to adjust your pace and plans
Being that we seem to be in a very ‘breezy’ weather pattern right now, I thought I might share with you some things I have learnt about running (training and racing) in the wind!
Immediately I recall Melbourne Marathon 2016 for so many reasons, one being the strong winds that we battled, particularly along Beaconsfield Parade – and for anyone having run Melbourne Marathon before, it’s a long bloody road… Let me take you on a short journey (of 42kms):
My first ‘official’ pacer gig! Having been invited to lead the 3hr 10minute pacing bus for this city’s largest marathon event, I was nervous in a new way, not having ever ‘paced’ at a major city event before and feeling the weight of expectation and responsibility upon my shoulders, plus of course the added pressure of actually having to run that far again only months after racing the marathon in San Francisco on my return to distance racing from (another) stress fracture. The rules around ‘pacing’ are very strict at any major event. The pacer must run even splits for every km and the finishing time must be within 60seconds and not outside 90seconds of the time being paced. For me, I had the most fun in a marathon ever! To be able to run a marathon, not race it, to help others achieve their goals, to have a job required of me and to achieve that was an incredibly fulfilling feeling! And we crossed that line at bang on 3:09:00! However, I digress, back to the wind and the ENORMOUS BUGS! Never before had I encountered hoards of massive bugs flying through the air as we did on that day! They were absolutely everywhere and it was just as well I wasn’t plant-based at that time because the number I ingested was horrific! We hit the strongest gusts of wind along the exposed stretch of Beaconsfield Parade which seemingly goes on forever…
Towing a yellow balloon behind me, (I had to hold it in my hand as a I ran to stop it from: 1. Flying away, 2. Smacking me constantly in the face, 3. Bouncing off the faces of those running with me!) we took that wind on with vigour and determination! In a race situation it is never good form to use someone as a wind-break but it is definitely accepted and often done. Size does matter! For me, being small in stature, I find that a head or cross-wind really pushes me back and buffers me all over the place. Personally I find that a decent head-wind will easily wipe 15-20seconds off my pace, and regardless of a tail-wind on the return (if you are lucky enough), the benefit of this is negated by the extent to which the offending wind has stripped all energy from my legs in trying to push through and not drop off too much in pace. I recall the 10km event at Sandy Point one year. A notoriously windy event and not one I particularly love – possibly because I have never had good weather there! The head-wind was so strong heading out on the first 5km of the course that by the turnaround (having run the slowest 5km EVER), I just had nothing left in me to run a decent second half and found the tail-wind most underwhelming!
Back to Melbourne Marathon we rallied together as a pack and drew in closer to shelter those who were feeling weaker at that stage of the race from the strongest gusts. Everyone in my pacing group (all men) looked out for each other, we communicated, and runners even offered to give me shelter and wind-break as we ran – and I was pacing them! Despite the conditions there were many PB’s run, along with the female winner on that day Sinead Diver.
When it comes to running into the wind there are definitely changes in our form and alterations to our plans that we can make to help us:
- Shortening stride and increasing cadence
- Work to effort rather than pace
- Seek shelter on the route where possible
- Resist folding over at the waist to ‘push’ in to the wind, and instead ensuring activation of gluts and a higher knee drive
- Keep strong in the upper body and especially the core
- It is just wind! Try not to make a big deal of it in your mind
- Know that you are doing your very best at that particular time regardless of the conditions
- Avoid wearing baggy or loose clothing that will create drag and flap about annoyingly
- Try to relax, getting stressed about it is just a waste of energy.
- You can’t change the weather. Control the controllable!
Take care out there and over this blustery weather phase.
Take advantage of a tail-wind where you can and embrace the head-wind as resistance training and take extra strength and brownie points from that! Wear sunnies to avoid small particles and insects from ending up in your eyes, and avoid heavily treed areas.
Be safe, be kind to yourself and be thankful that this is just training and not a race!