Weather Roulette, Page 3


Pittsburgh, PA-May 1 to 18th, 1986-Hourly temps.gif (6540 bytes)

The month of May is a spring-summer transition period, and is prone to marked weather variations. 1986 was no exception. 16 days before the Marathon, peak temperature for the race period hours was 40F lower than on race day. 5 days before the race, peak temperature was 20F lower than on race day. There was no realistic way that the vast majority of competitors could have acquired reasonable heat tolerance for this event.

The result was highly unsatisfactory.  Four hours into the 1986 Pittsburgh Marathon, paramedics were receiving "runner down" alerts every 15 seconds. In one 10-minute period, a single paramedic started intravenous lines in 7 runners. 51 runners were taken to hospitals.

Temperature monitoring during the race has also been criticized. As pointed out in the Heat Islands pages of this web site, the only way to know what the temperature conditions are for an event is to measure them at the event site, or along the event route. Street temperatures during the 1986 marathon were reportedly 95F,  and organizers were reportedly depending on airport temperatures, being recorded some 20 miles away, in the shade. 10-15F differences are fairly common between rural shaded and urban street temperatures. (For tennis courts, 25F differences are sometimes recorded.)

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Copyright 1998 The Zunis Foundation. Last Modified: April 2, 2009.