I ran an extremely windy half-marathon yesterday, and this got me thinking.

In medium- to long-distance races (say 10km to a marathon), what are good strategies for dealing with strong headwind and crosswind?

For example, would running in a pack have helped?

  • 1
    BTW, shouldn't this be on fitness stackexchange?
    – Sarge
    Feb 18, 2014 at 0:29
  • 1
    @Sarge It's fine here. There is some overlap between Sports SE and Fitness SE. If this was strictly about running for fitness, then this would be migrated to Fitness SE. However, the OP is wondering about how to run in a strong wind for medium- to long-distance races, which fits our scope of "competitive physical activity."
    – user527
    Feb 18, 2014 at 3:26
  • The context of my question is such that it is indeed more suitable for fitness.SE. When I posted it, I was unaware that there were two sites (and the distinction between them is not entirely clear to me still). Is there a way to migrate the question to fitness.SE, as I think there it is likely to get attention of the sort I would like?
    – NPE
    Feb 19, 2014 at 8:04
  • @NPE Flag and request migration.
    – user527
    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:10

3 Answers 3


Two main tips (note that I used to run in Wellington, NZ which is famed for both its hills and its wind).

Firstly, a headwind is basically a hill you can't see - treat it that way. Techniques like small, quick steps to preserve momentum are most useful.

Secondly, for a sufficiently strong wind you can draft off people. Tuck in behind someone in front and let them tack the brunt of it.

No, I don't think a pack would have helped. Packs are about water.

Aside, I once did the headwind trick in a race. It was the 10km of a tri and I'm very much a back-of-the-packer. I was tussling with one guy with the lead changing a lot. This was in Wellington and very windy that day so I gave up and just huddled behind him until we rounded the last headland. Then I just pulled past him and cross the line in front.

  • Thanks for this. Part of the question was about strong cross-winds (as this is what happened in the race I was referring to)... any insights? Thanks again.
    – NPE
    Feb 18, 2014 at 7:29
  • Cross wind is much the same as headwind - but harder. You need the quick steps so that when a gust hits you are more likely to have contact with the ground - or will do very soon. If you're running with others then you can do the same headwind truck.
    – Sarge
    Feb 18, 2014 at 19:36

In addition to Sarge's suggestions, my suggestion is more mental than physical. Don't let it bother you. Try to imagine that everyone else is being slowed by the wind but for some reason it is helping you. Or pretend that you really like it when it is windy and it makes you run faster. I say these things (jedi mind tricks really) because there is sometimes not a lot you can do to change what is happening, but there is still a lot you can do about how you react to it. And the weird thing is, that it really works a lot of the time!!

  • When I'm having strong headwinds during race/training I try to shorten the lengt of my steps and rais the frequency.

  • Headwinds/uphill running/bends or U-turns in the running course/ though surface like sand or ice. --> shorter steps in a higher frequenty.

tailwinds/downhil/ or other good circumstances for a fast pace, rais the length of your steps a little.

Running in a pack is alway's better than alone, if possible...

I'm a triathleet but when i was youger I did a lot of cross country running. I've been competing in the jonior national champion chips for cross country running a few time, and learn adapting your step length an freq. is very important... especially in this dicipline.

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