Running into the wind

I've run two races in cold, wet and windy weather this winter - a 10-miler in December and a 20-miler yesterday. On both occasions, whenever there was a headwind I seemed to slow down relative to the rest of the runners around me and was overtaken by several people, some of whom I caught up with again when we were no longer running against the wind. On neither occasion was the wind strong enough to make me feel as if I was in danger of being blown right off my feet.

Naively, I've assumed that since I'm 5'1" and not particularly bulky, with a reasonable power-to-weight ratio from doing other sports, the breeze should have no more impact on me than on the prop-forward types (or the lanky lassies) who are able to pelt past me on those sections, and that maybe it's psychological - I get uncomfortable so I slow down more than would be explained by the physical effects of battling the elements.

I plan to use a HRM more often in the future and that should be helpful - but I wonder if anyone knows whether physical factors such as bodyweight make a difference to our ability to maintain pace on windy days.


  • Vrap..same here..and its the same when I come to hills...everyone seems to overtake, but I manage to catch up again on downhills and straight..and as I am 5 inches taller not exactly "prop forward type" but do weigh around 9.10 size obvioulsy doesnt plat that a big a part...I always though you little dinky ladies seem to over take ME !! although I do think overall from what I experience the slighter you are the faster you are...but...I could never get much under 9.7 without looking pretty ill.
  • But if its COLD I run my half frezzing weather and hailstorm...
  • WilkieWilkie ✭✭✭
    Perhaps it's like running hills - the more you do it, the better you get at it?

    But it's not really something you can set out to train for, I suppose - you'd have to wait for a windy day!

    I hate running into the wind, though. Give me a steep hill any day (but not with a head wind!)
  • All is indeed well on the reptilian front, JJ :o) I trust you're in fine fettle too.

    I don't mind training in windy conditions ... well, OK, I don't like it, but I go out and do it anyway. Although running up hills doesn't bother me at all, preliminary HRM findings (I only got one last week) suggest that a headwind actually puts up my heart rate less than a hill would do for a comparable increase in perceived effort.

    The discomfort of being buffetted about even when the wind isn't strong enough to knock me down might make a difference psychologically. That would be no less rational than the fact that I slow down if I realise I have strayed from my planned route and become temporarily misplaced.
  • Yesterday's wind seemed to have little effect on my heart rate but comparing my splits with last week's lsr they were slower. Not by a huge amount but over 20+ miles it all adds up. But I freely admit that I really don't like running in the wind and always find it a struggle.
  • V-rap.... are you able to analyse your running posture in retrospect? Do you lean into headwinds, do you put your head down or keep it up? (I know I hate wind blowing into my eyes). What about your arms? Could your posture be changing the efficiency of your running so that you're crunching yourself up or something?
  • >Hard reptilian glare<

    JJ, are you saying I'm just being a bit of a wimp?


    That's what I thought too, and it would be tremendously reassuring if that was the case because it's something I can work on.

    I hope your operation goes smoothly and look forward to eating your dust in the autumn.

    Flyaway, you may well be right. During my hardest mile yesterday, into a headwind full of hailstones the size of marbles, I was aware that my head was down and I was slightly crouched (though nobody overtook me on that section) and it's possible that I'm doing the same thing to a lesser extent whenever I hit a headwind and not noticing it. Something else to work on :o)
  • I know that I was leaning into the wind yesterday and was only really looking, at most, a foot or two in front of my feet so sure that didn't help.
  • Maybe runners around you "upped" the effort to beat the wind as such so will go past you. When the wind drops they will feel the burn. If you kept a constant effort you keep going and will catch the other runners as they slow.

    If that makes sense?
  • V-rap and others, some brief aerodynamics...

    One of the forces acting on you when you run is drag. Drag acts in the opposite direction to your movement. Two important things to understand about drag.

    1. It's effect is dependant on a number of things about you. The first is the profile you present to the airflow. So height and width are factors. If you imagine taking a vertical slice through your body, this is your total drag area (a bit like the white line they put around dead bodies on crime programs). The second thing about you is your 'slipperyness'. Smooth skin and tight clothing will present less drag than rough or baggy versions of either. The third is your shape factor. In other words if your side profile is relatively flat then the drag is higher than if you are curvey.

    2. The second interesting thing about drag is that it goes up the faster you run, or in increasing headwind. Not only does it go up, but it is 'square law' related. So moving at 8mph the slowing force from drag is 4 times (2 squared) the effect it has at 4mph, not double as you may assume. Image that the day you are running there is a 14mph wind and you are running at a steady 7 mph. With the wind at your side the force slowing you due to drag is 7X, where X is the drag factor. With the wind behind it is -7X as you have a net wind pushing you. The bad news is that when you turn into the wind you have an equivalent head wind of 21 mph. The drag factor is now 9 times that of running at 7 mph in still air or with the wind at your side and 16 times that of running downwind.

    Look at those most affected, cyclists. They make themselves slippery with tight clothing (very competitive males also shave!). They reduce their front profile by getting 'small' with aero bars, tucking knees in etc. They make their side profile curvely with sleek helmets and again the aero bars. Many cyclists focus on weight reduction for speed, whereas, reducing drag has a far higher payback until you get really good!

    For runners it's not that easy. Reducing the drag area means crunching up, which may affect breathing. Changing your shape is also difficult, but certainly bringing you arms in close and making a v shape will help. Ducking your head down and forward also reduces area and improves shape. Keeping legs and knees very close together also helps. If you can get a break from the wind by drafting (running behind another runner) or getting shelter from buildings/trees also helps. Drafting is illegal in some cycle races, but not in any running races that I am aware of.

    A bit theoretical I'm afraid, but hope it helps.
  • Thanks, Trinirunner :o) That's really useful!
  • Just remembered one thing about yesterday's run, I had a stitch issue a couple of times which is something I'd not normally have on a slow run. Don't know whether that was because I was leaning into the wind or just that the headwind was changing my breathing patterns/intake. Could just have been one of those days of course!
  • I did the Silverstone half yesterday, got blown to bits on an exposed track and was around 2-3 mins off what I thought I'd get. On checking the forum, there seemed to be many that were also around 2-3 mins off target. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not?
  • I'm fairly sure the weather cost me at least 2-3 minutes yesterday compared to what I could have managed on a day hat was merely a little breezy, but that's OK. Weather happens :o)
  • A really interesting thread for a newbie like me. Had a really awful run yesterday, had to walk a few times which i haven't done for a year now. I noticed the wind's effect on me in that it really slowed me down, it almost felt like i was running in slow motion! it made me wonder how runners cope with it, especially in races. Good to know that even experienced runners have the same problem.

    Next time i will try trinirunners tips.
  • Interesting reading for me too. Had a particularly bad run yesterday. Very windy and cold all the way - at least 1-1:30 off each min/mile. So could account for some of it I guess. Made me feel a little better in the head about things anyhow.
  • I was at Silverstone sunday for the first time and thankfully changed into a long sleeved top to run in as it was cold. The weather was horrendous and the wind blew me sideways a few times, as for the hailstones they really hurt !! By mile 9 l was wondering if l was ever going to finish and decided to forget times and just concentrate on finishing had a second wind ( pardon the pun )between miles 10 and 11 and felt great but by mile 12 l was praying to see the finish line.
    I crossed the line with relief ,it had been my hardest race and l was surprised to see it was the fastest l had run a half marathon !!! I feel very HAPPY.
  • Trini, if I'd known/thought about the drag effect of clothes I'd have worn cycling-type shorts instead of traditional-type running shorts. D'you think I could have save a few mins ? But seriously I'll think about several of your suggestions, - clothing, and keeping arms in etc next time i have to run in those sort of conditions.

    And Vrap, if its any help, my HR yesterday was about what I'd have expected for a half marathon, though perhaps I could have pushed it up a bit earlier. There are certainly no variations that look like the difference between into the wind and with wind behind, though there is a big dip when the hailstones happened, and I was definately keeping my head down and not looking ahead, and at one point covering my face with my hand. I think a thick bushy beard would have been the most useful, as even if it had increased drag into the wind it would have been splendid protection from the hailstones :-)

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