, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 233-237

Record performances at the Boston Marathon: Biometeorological factors

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Air temperature and relative humidity have long been suspected of affecting the performance of marathon runners. Though these factors are important in their extremes, we show that other factors are even more indicative of race performances. Performances of the top 3 finishers in the last 30 Boston Marathons were correlated with hourly meteorological data for each race day. These 90 individual performances were classified as: record breaking performances (31), average performances (35), and unusually slow performances (24). The factors that help predict record breaking and unusually slow performances are: (i) wet bulb temperature, (ii) percent sky cover, and (iii) presence or absence of a light precipitation. Record breaking performances are characterized by a wet bulb temperature of <7.8°C, and 100% sky cover. A light drizzle is also conducive to better performances. On the other hand, unusually low performances are accompanied by a wet bulb temperature of >7.8°C, and a sky cover of 50% or less. No light, precipitation was recorded on any of the unusually slow race days. A graphic analysis clearly shows these relationships to exist. In addition, a multiple regression analysis confirms the importance of these variables. The authors advise that these are reliable predictors; however, when considering marathon races held in various geographical regions and differing climatic regimes, the exact numerical thresholds used here may not apply.