This article discusses wind assistance for the short sprints and horizontal jumps. This article will not discuss excessive wind assistance for the hurdles, as that’s another story with stride and step patterns.
You’ve all seen the dreaded +2.1 on the race results which nullifies any attempts for record purposes (or achieving standards). I know I have, my PB for 100m came from a race with +2.1 wind!
And you’ve seen the suspicious +2.0 on World Records. Race directors are notorious for wanting world records to the point of having super hard tracks (i.e. screw the distance runners) and using “stick em” spray or hairspray to slow down the wind meters. Or, even worse, someone standing in front of the wind gauge!
But the question is, does wind assistance really help? Of course it does, like altitude, but it can hurt you too (more coming up). How about a cross wind? Can a cross wind of +3.0 which shows up as +1.9 on the wind gauge help you? And then there’s the 200m where the wind gauge only records the last 10 seconds once the first runner has entered the straightway!
Remarkable Wind Assistance Performances
Who remembers Obadele Thompson’s 9.69 (+5.7 m/s) set back in 1996?
Or, more recently, Tyson Gay jaw dropping 9.68 (+4.1 m/s) set at the USATF Olympic Trials with the fastest time under any conditions bettering Usain Bolt’s 9.72 WR. Click here to see that race on YouTube. Months later, little did we know Bolt would run 9.69 slowing down at the finish.
If you run a PB in a +3.0 or +4.0 tailwind, I think great, because YOUR BODY really ran that time. It’s programmed in the muscle and neuro memory. Now you just have to do it again next time, after a 10 day taper, of course. Same goes for altitude conditions.
Your sprint mechanics must be solid! Technically, you will be overstriding because you are covering ground at a faster rate with the same stride frequency. This means each stride is actually longer than with no wind.
You have to go back to my article on overspeed training, which basically explains the braking effect. There are several ways to train for overspeed training, such as towing with bungee cords, or wind tunnels, but I prefer a nice gentle slope of 1 or 2 degree grades on a grass surface with long spikes. Bobsledders and Skeleton’ers are familiar with this type of training as they have to replicate it on the hill.
With overspeed training. you will overstride if you are not careful. The result would be injuries, and that would be bad. Take caution.
How Wind Assistance is Recorded
You can go to the article on Track and Field Rules and download the official handbook. The wind velocity is recorded from the smoke of the Starter’s gun to:
- 100m – timed for 10 seconds
- 100mH and 100mH – timed for 13 seconds
In the 200m event, the wind velocity is measured for a length of 10 seconds starting when the first athlete enters the straightway.
In the Long and Triple Jump, a period of 5 seconds for 40m from the take-off line in the Long Jump is used, and for 35m the Triple Jump. If an athlete runs less than 40m or 35m, then the wind velocity is measured from the time they start the approach run.
The 200 and 400m meter tailwind
Sprinting is all about vectors. The above diagram shows a tail-cross wind at 45 degree angle to the straightaway.
First, as far as race strategy goes, refer to my article on How to Race the 200m.
Even if the wind is a +3.0, you will have a headwind for the first 50m (Lane 1 gets it worse than lane 8 or 9). Your speed is fairly slow compared to the later part of the race, so the wind should not matter too much.
The next 50 meters, where the wind isn’t even being recorded, is where the sprinter gets full benefit with a nice tailwind.
And finally for the 100m straightway, when the wind gauge operator starts the meter, you get the effects of a cross wind, which could show up as little as +1.9
As you can see, there’s a flaw to measuring wind for 200 meters, but take the PB and run if you can!
In the 400m, you want the wind in your face over the last 100m, because you are already slowing down. You might as well take advantage of the wind and get a fast opening 200m! The 400 meter success is all about speed reserve.
Great Wind Assistance Stories
Other than Thompson’s and Gay’s 100 meters mentioned above, two more stories stick out in my head.
First, there’s Willie Banks 18.20m (+5.2) in the triple jump.
Second, in the long jump, Ivan Pedroso jumped 8.96 meters in Sestriere, Italy back in 1995 to break the world record by one centimeter. The wind gauge did show a legal tail wind of +1.2 m/s, but they had proof someone was standing in front of the gauge! So the result was voided. But he really did jump 8.96m!
Crazy things happen in Italy, and I can vouch for that!