Running in the 'Meda: The wind

Running in the 'Meda: The wind

Marty Beene

Photo by Marty Beene.

I hate the wind.

To be fair, I like that the wind tends to blow away the stuff that makes the air yucky (although the Central Valley then gets to enjoy it). But it also takes pollen that is perfectly fine right where it is - on or near the plants and trees where it originated - and carries it (apparently) right into my nostrils and eyes. Thanks a bunch, Wind.

But what I really hate about the wind is that I have to run into it whenever I'm running here in the 'Meda at this time of year.

Sometimes I run half my run into the wind then turn around - and the wind somehow knows I've turned around, so it changes direction and I have to run the other half of my run into the wind, too. Wind is clearly evil.

It's not like I don't know that it's windy in most of the places I run here in town (along the water). And it's not like I'm not used to it. I grew up in the part of San Mateo that's close to the bay, and it was windy all the time there, too. It always made basketball on the playground interesting - you would have to gauge the wind speed and direction correctly if you had any hope of sinking a free throw or jump shot.

When I started running in high school, I noticed that our track was half sheltered from the wind by a hill. Yay! Unfortunately, the part of the track that was sheltered was where you would get a tailwind if it weren't sheltered. Rats.

At least I have learned to run in the wind over all these years. I don't stress out over my pace if I'm running into the wind, and I don't celebrate my fast times on those all-too-rare cases when I'm running with it. I've gotten to be quite good at drafting other runners, especially my son Cameron, who is thankfully taller than I am. But somehow when I'm in a race on a windy day, I always end up behind some 4'11", 90-pound woman and get no benefit from drafting her. Where are those 6'3", 210-pound hulks when you need them?

When you draft another runner, you can't really run directly behind him or her; you have to be kind of off to one side. Usually the wind isn't perfectly in your face, so you have to figure out which side will let you hide behind the other person the most. Then you get up behind them as close as possible. Really close. You may have to adjust your arm swing a little on that side because you don't want to bump into them.

A more egregious error is to get so close that you actually trip them, something that nearly happened to my friend John West during this year's windy Boston Marathon when a guy who was apparently inexperienced at drafting decided to draft him for a while.

If you do decide to draft someone, be sure to first ask if it's okay, then offer to take the lead for part of the time to share the work. If someone is drafting you and not sharing the work and you find that annoying, you have a couple of options.

You can slow down to force them to pass you, then tuck in behind them (even stop to pretend to tie your shoe, then catch them when they keep going). Or you can speed up and leave them behind - if you do this, you should do a brief but powerful surge for a short distance. If they catch up again, it's probably time for the fake untied shoe trick.

Finally, if there's no one around to draft and you have a stiff breeze in your face that's slowing you to a crawl along the bay, there's only one solution. Stop for a few seconds and take a gander to the west to remind yourself that we live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. That oughta get you going again.

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups, and registration for his Mountain Running Retreat in June is now live - visit his web site for more information. Marty can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.