The Boston Marathon has a long and storied history of wonky weather, from 90-degree heat in 1976 to 50 mile-per-hour winds in 2007. This year was no different, as Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on the race to create 30-degree temperatures, freezing rain, and headwinds of more than 25 miles per hour. According to race officials, the 2018 race was the coldest Boston Marathon in 30 years.
The weather caused runners to frantically adjust their strategies and wardrobes ahead of the race. Many news outlets in Boston reported running stores and the marathon expo sold out of running jackets and cold-weather gear ahead of the race as the weather forecast became more ominous leading up to the race.
Once the starting gun went off, it was clear the weather was a factor as tight packs of runners formed in an attempt to hide from the brutal headwind. In the elite women’s race, competitors zig-zagged through the course to avoid large and deep puddles in the road. The men’s race, at several points, shifted into a single-file paceline, with each runner trying to stay in the slipstream of the one ahead of him.
Such attempts proved futile for most. During and immediately after the race, hundreds of runners were treated for hypothermia and other cold-weather health issues by medical staff, with a constant chorus of ambulance sirens ferrying athletes from the race. Residents along the course opened their homes to runners suffering symptoms of hypothermia.
The brutal conditions were even too much for the pros, as 23 elite athletes recorded DNFs. In the men’s race, two-time Boston winner Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia dropped out, alongside other top contenders Tamirat Tola and Lemi Berhanu of Ethiopia and Kenya’s Wilson Chebet. Galen Rupp, the American favorite to win the race this year, quit as well, citing symptoms of asthma and hypothermia. In the women’s race, American legend Deena Kastor, 2014 Boston champ Buzunesh Deba and initial women’s leader Mamitu Daska were among those who recorded DNFs.
Many of the elites who did finish remarked the weather added an element of difficulty to the race they hadn’t expected. “It was like a hurricane out there,” said second-place finisher Sarah Sellers.