How Perfect Was Marathon Monday’s Weather?

Research suggests it was pretty close to ideal.


Photo by Margaret Burdge

How perfect was this year’s Marathon Monday weather with its sunshine and spring temperatures? For spectators, it was pretty ideal. And for Rita Jeptoo, who set a course record, it certainly didn’t hurt. But how much did it help?

A lot of factors go into running a marathon well, and weather definitely seems to be among them. In determining the ideal marathoning weather, researchers have compared the temperatures at top marathons to athletic performances. One study found that an air temperature of about 50 degrees was optimal. Another, by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, put the ideal closer to 41 degrees. Another study suggests that 50 degrees is ideal for slower runners,  while elites do best at 39 degrees. (It also found that variations in weather tend to impact slower runners more than elite ones.)

Out of curiosity, we looked at the weather in years a man or woman has set a course record in Boston since 1970. The mean temperature was 48 degrees and the wind speed was 12 miles per hour. On Monday, the mean temperature was 51 degrees and average wind speed was a 9 miles per hour. Basically, it was a day that looked a lot like past Patriots’ Days when competitors have run well. And it tracked with research that suggests we were near an ideal temperature range.

When it comes to the Boston Marathon, that’s not something to take for granted. As Runner’s World noted last year:

[Boston] has a reputation for meteorological extremes that thwart months of training. The Boston Marathon’s weather history is littered with years in which temperatures reached beyond the mere unseasonable.

We certainly didn’t see sweltering heat, heavy headwinds, or (God forbid) snow. We don’t often give the New England spring weather credit for cooperating with our plans. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge now what a perfect day both athletes and observers had yesterday.