FALSE START #2 by David E. Ortman

[July 1999 National Masters News Reprinted by Permission]


Isnít it time for Track & Field to get rid of the term "wind-aided"? Itís a rare meet when the wind blows at a steady twenty miles per hour, except maybe in Oklahoma, the only state where I ever ran on a grass track because otherwise the wind blew the cinders away!

It is odd the way wind-aided and wind gages apply at track meets. In field events it depends on the implement. The Discus and Javelin generally fly better and travel farther when thrown into a head wind, a real advantage. How come Discus and Javelin records arenít taken away when a head wind is above a certain limit?

Shot putters and Hammer throwers seem to prefer throwing with a tail wind, but no one cancels their records because they are "wind-aided" no matter how hard the wind blows.

The field events have other inequalities. The Pole Vault is generally run with a tail wind because it is darn hard (and dangerous) to vault into a headwind. When the weather changes and the wind shifts direction, the entire event may be halted to turn the standards around and vault with wind. But nobody takes away a world record because a vault was wind aided.

High Jumpers are at the total mercy of the wind, particularly a gusty wind. Just as in the Pole Vault, a high wind speed can also effect how and whether the bar stays up or gets "blown off". But high jump records are not negated because a jump is "wind aided".

The Long Jump comes the closest to running events. [Along with the Triple Jump] it is the only field event where a wind gage is used. Anything above a 2 meter per second (mps) is disallowed for record purposes (unless, of course, a trainer or teammate stands in front of the wind gage during a jump!). This poses a dilemma for meet officials and competitors. Jumping into a headwind is certainly not conducive to jumping long, but jumping with the wind negates any record.

In multi-events, such as the Decathlon or Pentathlon, you donít get any points deducted because you ran your 100m meters with a tailwind. According to Rex Harvey, multi-events have an allowable wind limit of 4.0 mps, or double individual events. So, Dan OíBrien can run a Decathlon 100m with an allowable 4 mps tailwind and count it toward a Decathlon World Record, but Maurice Greeneís recent 100m in a world-record tying 9.84 at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene was disallowed because the tailwind was 3.50 mps.

Three other track events are effected by wind gages: High Hurdles, 100m and 200m. All the other track events involve at least one full lap. This assumes that headwinds and tailwinds even out, but this is not always true. I once ran a 400m at the U.W. Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA with a swirling tailwind for virtually the entire race.

The High Hurdles, like the Pole Vault, can be run with either a tailwind or headwind. In high school and college, High Hurdles were normally run with wind for the safety of the athletes. Occasionally, a very long legged hurdler would get crossed up, but hurdlers running into the wind too often clobbered one or more hurdles. Perversely, master meet directors refuse to run master hurdle races with the wind, even at WAVA world champion meets (such as the one in Buffalo). High Hurdles are difficult enough without the added burden of running into a strong (15 mph) headwind.

The 100m and 200m also use the wind gage, but since there are no hurdles involved at least there is no danger in running into a head wind. But I maintain that the term "wind-aided" is generally incorrect.

The formula for converting meters per second into miles per hour is: mps x 2.235 =mph (2mps = 4.47miles per hour). This caused the uproar over the worldís fastest human. Donovan Baily ran 9.84 (22.7 mph) in the 100m at the last Olympics, while Michael Johnson ran 19.32 for 200m (23.1 mph). That is why they set up the much bally-hooed 150m duel race in which Johnson pulled up lame.

Even masters in short sprints or the long jump can approach 8mps (18 miles per hour), well above the "wind-aided" allowance of 2mps (4.47 miles per hour). At tail winds of 8mps or less, you are not really being pushed or "wind-aided". In fact, you are still running into air. It is only when steady wind speeds exceed 18 miles per hour, like in Oklahoma, that one might consider "wind-aided" to be a factor.

If we call wind speeds below 2mps, "wind legal", what should we call wind speeds above 2mps and below 8mps? How about just "positive wind factor". After all, we have age factors, why not wind factors. Thus, we could have:

All headwinds = "negative wind factor"

0.0 to 2 meters per second = "wind legal"

2 to 8 meters per second = "positive wind factor"

8 meters per second = "wind-aided"

And everybody could still say at the end of their race, "Iím winded!"

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