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Analysis: Boston Marathon Weather Hard To Predict

Raymond Britt looks at the data that shows a direct correlation between finishing times and the weather conditions in Boston.

There is evidence that will break hearts of Boston runners hoping there exists a general standard of typical race day temperatures and conditions.

The above charts of race day temperatures from Hopkinton to Boston between 1999 and 2013 shows they fluctuate from year to year.

Temperatures will vary during the 3, 4 or 5 hours it takes to cover the 26.2 miles between Hopkinton and Boston. But there’s no comfort in knowing that because the odds of temperatures increasing or decreasing from start to finish are 50/50.

Since 1999, temperatures have risen on the way to Boston in seven years; they declined in seven other years, and remained flat once.

What about just waiting until the race weekend, or even race morning forecast? Surely they will be accurate enough to give the Boston runner confidence in conditions. Nope. The race weekend and race morning forecasts are no guarantee of what you’ll experience on the starting line a few hors later.

I’ve experienced the surprise weather in nearly half of the 13 Boston Marathons I’ve finished. 1999, 2004, and 2007 stand out as races that differed sharply from the forecast.

In 2004, we were told the day might be a little warmer than usual, and many runners were crushed by overheating and dehydration as temperatures soared well above anyone’s guess.

Three years later, we fully expected to be slammed by headwinds from an all-but-guaranteed Nor’easter storm; instead it was a little windy with drizzling rain.

To try to avoid being crushed by conditions, I learned to take enough gear to Hopkinton so I could suit up in running gear that best seemed to match weather, just minutes before the race began. Everything else went into the gear-check bag, to be driven back to Boston for post-race retrieval.

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This year, however, with the elimination of a gear check in Hopkinton, runners will have to decide what to wear for the marathon hours before the race begins. That just made things a little more difficult for runners concerned about being prepared for the right temperatures and running conditions.

But no one said anything was easy about the Boston Marathon. Tough, incredibly unpredictable and unstable weather conditions will be one more reason you can have an awesome feeling of achievement when you finish in Boston.

You will have not only qualified, but you’ll have started the best race in the world shoulder to shoulder with the best runners in the world; you’ll have battled your way through any and all obstacles weather changes might throw at you; and when you finally reach the last half mile on Boylston Street, you’ll see the greatest finish line in racing.

Nothing stopped you, especially unpredictable and potentially devastating weather.

Enjoy every moment as you approach the end, allow yourself to celebrate your incredible achievement, cross the line, and become a member of one of the most exclusive clubs in racing: Boston Marathon Finishers.


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