Acclimation's Influence on Physically-fit Individuals: Marathon Race Results as a Function of Meteorological Variables and Indices
While there are many elements to consider when determining one's risk of heat or cold stress, acclimation could prove to be an important factor to consider. Individuals who are participating in more strenuous activities, while being at a lower risk, will still feel the impacts of acclimation to an extreme climate. To evaluate acclimation in strenuous conditions, I collected finishing times from six different marathon races: the New York City Marathon (New York City, New York), Equinox Marathon (Fairbanks, Alaska), California International Marathon (Sacramento, California), LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon (Austin, Texas), Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon (Cincinnati, Ohio), and the Ocala Marathon (Ocala, Florida). Additionally, I collected meteorological variables for each race day and the five days leading up to the race (baseline). I tested these values against the finishing times for the local runners, those from the race state, and visitors, those from other locations. Effects of local acclimation could be evaluated by comparing finishing times of local runners to the change between the race day and baseline weather conditions. Locals experienced a significant impact on finishing times for large changes between race day and the baseline conditions for humidity variables, dew point temperature, vapor pressure, relative humidity, and temperature based variables such as the heat index, temperature and the saturation vapor pressure. Wind speed and pressure values also marked a change in performance, however; pressure was determined to be a larger psychological factor than acclimation factor. The locals also demonstrated an acclimation effect as performance improved when conditions were similar on race day to baseline conditions for the three larger races. Humidity variables had the largest impact on runners when those values increased from training and acclimation values; however increased wind speed appeared to offset increased humidity values. These findings support previous acclimation research stating warm wet conditions are more difficult to acclimate to than warm dry conditions. This research while primarily pertaining to those participating physically demanding activities may also be applied to other large scale events such as festivals, fairs, or concerts.