Earlier Boston Marathon Start Time Mitigates Environmental Heat Stress


Purpose: This study aimed to compare the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) index and other environmental parameters between early and late Boston Marathon race start times from 1995 to 2016. Methods: Environmental data from 1995 to 2016 (excluding 1996) were used to compare two identical time frames using the 0900-1300 h start versus the 1100-1500 h start. This included the WBGT, dry bulb (Tdb), black globe (Tbg), wet bulb (Twb), solar radiation, relative humidity, and air water vapor pressure. To make comparisons between start times, the difference in the area under the curve (AUC) for each environmental variable was compared within each year with a Wilcoxon signed rank test with a Holm-Bonferroni correction. Results: AUC exposures for WBGT (P = 0.027), Twb (P = 0.031), Tdb (P = 0.027), Tbg (P = 0.055), and solar radiation (P = 0.004) were reduced with an earlier start, whereas those for relative humidity and air water vapor pressure were not. Overall, an earlier race start time by 2 h (0900 vs 1100 h) reduced the odds of experiencing a higher flag category 1.42 times (β = 0.1744, P = 0.032). Conclusions: The 2007 decision to make the Boston Marathon start time earlier by 2 h has reduced by ~1.4 times the odds that runners will be exposed to environmental conditions associated with exertional heat illness.

Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise

Citeable as:

Cheuvront, S. N., Caldwell, A. R., Cheuvront, P. J., Kenefick, R. W., & Troyanos, C. (2021). Earlier Boston Marathon Start Time Mitigates Environmental Heat Stress. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 53(9):1999-2005. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0000000000002659