There's a lot to love about fall—the opportunity to pull out your cozy sweaters and cute boots, apple picking, the resurgence of hot drinks and spiced baked goods. And if you're a runner, there's another reason to embrace the season: it makes you faster.
That's the word from Michael Meliniotis, a coach at Mile High Run Club. "Every fall, runners can very well experience a welcome boost in performance," he says. The reason? "In the fall, we begin to see legitimate drops in temperatures and humidity. Coming off a hot summer, this means we can run at the same effort level and heart rate, yet see immediate increases in speed." So even though it feels like you're putting the same effort as always into your run, your pace naturally picks up. He says the peak temp for this sweet spot is between 45 and 55 degrees F. (Check out the best temperatures for different distances.)
But part of what you notice is the payoff of a summer spent training. "Running culture serves up some of its best races in the fall season," Meliniotis says. "Fall is one of the busiest months for marathons, and runners who are planning on participating in a fall marathon will be in peak physical condition coming out of the summer months," adds John Gallucci, Jr., the president of JAG Physical Therapy.
Even if you aren't signed up for a race, Meliniotis says that summer tends to be a time that all runners put in more miles. "Runners work hard in the summer, often following training programs or running socially more often than in the winter. The cumulative effect of building a running base and engaging in speed work builds performance," he says. Hard work + optimal weather conditions = super speed. (This track workout will help you run faster.)
So how can you take advantage of the boost? Get out there and run. Continuing to add in speed work or build on the base you created over the summer will help you hold onto the natural uptick. Or just sign up for a fall race, get your PR, and take the winter to investigate more indoor classes. You can always start over again next year.