, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 297-306
Date: 25 Nov 2009

Effects of weather on the performance of marathon runners

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Abstract

The effects of air temperature, relative and specific humidity, wind speed, solar shortwave radiation, thermal longwave radiation, and rain on the performance of participants in the annual Stockholm Marathon from 1980 to 2008 were analysed statistically. The objective was to validate and extend previous studies by including data on finishing times of slower male and female runners and on the percentage of non-finishers. Due to decadal trends in the finishing time not related to weather, the finishing time anomaly (FTA) was calculated as the deviation of the annual finishing time from the linear trend of the finishing time. In all categories of runners, the single weather parameter with highest correlation with the FTA was the air temperature (correlation coefficient r = 0.66–0.73, with the highest values for slowest runners). Also, the solar shortwave radiation (r = 0.41–0.71), air relative humidity (r = −0.57 to −0.44) and, for male runners, the occurrence of rain (r = −0.51 to −0.42) reached a statistically significant correlation with the FTA, but the effects of the relative humidity and rain only arose from their negative correlation with the air temperature. The percentage of non-finishers (PNF) was significantly affected by the air temperature and specific humidity (r = 0.72 for multiple regression), which is a new result. Compared to faster runners, the results of slower runners were more affected by unfavourable weather conditions; this was previously known for runners with finishing times of 2.1–3 h, and now extended to finishing times of 4.7 h. Effects of warm weather were less evident for female than male runners, which was probably partly due to female runners’ larger ratio of surface area to body mass and slower running speed.