- Should I carry water with me?
- Will the ground be icy?
- Should I wear a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes?
- Are conditions safe?
- Should I adjust my pace due to wind, heat and/or humidity?
- What should I wear?
I've consulted multiple weather apps/sources over the past 15 years, and I have strong opinions on which ones are the best. Of course, that doesn't prevent me from continuing to consult ALL the weather sources when a goal race is coming up, but on a daily basis, I have my standard go-to app because I think it's the best.
In this blog post, I narrow it down to 5 weather sources, giving the pros and cons of each.
Weather Source #5: AccuWeather
AccuWeather was my go-to weather source before I became a runner. Now, I only look at it if I am in full-on weather obsession mode and I don't use it regularly.
Pros: You can see the weather forecast 90 days out! This is further out than any other app. While the accuracy of something two months away will be very low, at least you can get a sense of what can be expected for a particular location on a particular date. And it's just fun to be able to look at it because it makes your race feel closer.
Cons: Too many ads, and the hourly forecast is only available three days in advance (unless you pay for a subscription). I tried downloading the app to my phone about five years ago and I had to delete it because the ads were too intrusive. When visiting the website, the ads are also extremely annoying. I find it to be moderately accurate as early as 7 days out, but definitely not as good as the higher ranked apps below.
Weather Source #4: The Local News
For me, that's Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post. When I am racing somewhere out of town, I am sure to visit the local news station's website for a forecast video.
Pros: The local forecasters give you more data than the simple numbers you get from most weather apps. They will discuss what's happening and why, and if the race is big enough, will actually tell you what to expect on race morning. The Capital Weather Gang offers in-depth information for the Washington DC area and I use it a lot in the winter to understand the probability of snow and how many inches we will get.
Cons: Usually the local forecasts don't provide the hour-by-hour details that are needed to truly plan your running outfit. For example, if you are doing a long run, it could start at 30 degrees and warm up to 40 by the end, but you would never know that from a local forecast without the hourly detail.
Weather Source #3: WeatherBug
WeatherBug is Greg's default weather app and it's usually pretty good.
Pros: Tends to be accurate, hourly forecast available 5 days in advance, has hourly details for the humidity and the wind speed.
Cons: Not as granular as the higher ranked-apps below. You don't know how much rain will fall each hour, you don't know the percentage of cloud cover, and it's not user friendly. If you want to see the hourly forecast for a day that's five days away, you have to click (or tap if you are using the app) on "Next 12 hours" until your day shows up. You can't easily navigate to it.
|WeatherBug hourly for this morning|
Weather Source #2: The National Weather Service
The National Weather Service, also known as weather.gov is one of my favorites. It's both accurate and detailed, and the only thing it lacks is an app for the iPhone.
Pros: The National Weather service has the most detailed hourly forecast by far. You can see temperature, dew point, humidity percentage, cloud cover percentage, chance of rain, wind speed, wind direction, wind gust, and more. If you navigate to the "discussion" area you can also get an in-depth analysis of what is going on. This wonderfully detailed forecast is available 7 days out. Just click "hourly forecast" and select your start date and time. You'll see the hourly forecast for two full days at a time. This site also has no ads. A good use of tax payer dollars!
Cons: The app is not free; it's $2.99. I actually didn't realize they had an app until I started writing this blog, so I might download it. I typically use my phone's browser to look at the forecast. Also, the hourly forecast only updates about twice per day, so if you check more frequently you aren't getting new information. The top ranked weather source seems to be updated every few hours or so.
|Detailed hourly forecast from Nat'l Weather Service|
According to WeatherBug, it's going to be 26 degrees at 8:00am, and according to the National Weather Service, it's going to be 30. I'll be running at that time, so I will probably dress for 28!
Weather Source #1: Wunderground
I have so much love for Wunderground. The app has a wealth of information and the website is even more detailed. It's one of the first apps I check when I wake up in the morning, and I rarely consult any other sources for my training runs. Since Greg has Weather Bug, I sometimes ask him what his phone says, but I trust Wunderground more. Usually the apps agree with each other.
Pros: Hourly forecast is available 10 days out! It's not usually accurate so far out, but it's a good first look. The app will tell you temperature, wind speed, wind direction, and if it's going to rain, it will tell you how much rain will fall each hour. This is important because a light drizzle is very different from a torrential downpour. You can even choose the weather station that is closest to you on a map, and there are loads of them. The website even has hourly historical data. So if I want to know what the weather was when I ran "x race" on "x date" I can go find out. I've already scoped out the weather history for April 20 in Boston and typically it's nice and cool.
Cons: The app sometimes crashes. There are a few ads but they aren't intrusive. Even still, I pay $1/year to make the ads go away fully.
|Boston Marathon 2018 Hourly Forecast on Wunderground|
As you can see in the above screen shot, Wunderground is the only weather source I know of that will tell you how much rain to expect. At 1:00pm, it was forecast to dump 0.3" of rain. . . in just one hour!
|Boston Marathon 2018|
The two weather sources that I find completely useless are the Weather Channel (also known as weather.com) and the weather app that comes with the iPhone. That app is powered by Yahoo! Weather. The weather app that comes with the iPhone has no detail whatsoever. It will tell you what temperature it is in a particular city, but that's about it. Unless I'm missing something, which would make the app non-intuitive.
The Weather Channel is a reputable weather source and when I had cable TV I enjoyed watching it. Their app and their website, however, always seem to be way off in terms of accuracy. Every time I have consulted weather.com, along with my other weather sources, weather.com has almost always been an outlier with its forecast. And of course, it's overloaded with ads.
I rely heavily on these weather apps to make decisions about my running. Sometimes I will opt for the treadmill, sometimes I will move my run to later in the day. It's also helpful to know when the sun rises, so I can determine if a headlamp is necessary. Of course, sometimes all apps are completely wrong. None of these sources showed sunshine during CIM, but the sun was out in full force for at least 15 minutes. Also, the rain kept coming and going from the forecast, which shows that the forecasters really couldn't predict if it was going to rain and when. Sometimes even the experts can't predict the weather!
Hopefully this blog was helpful, and if you know of a different weather source that I left out, please mention it in the comments!