We are often asked the following question: Will Missoula's altitude affect my marathon running performance, especially if I am flying from a place at or near sea level?
So we went to our own University of Montana Health & Human Performance Dept. to get a real answer... one you can rely upon. After all, these guys will do anything as long as they can test it. Here's what they said:
Missoula, MT has an elevation of 3,200 feet, or 975 meters above sea level. An individual's VO2 max, or one's maximal oxygen consumption, decreases little until an elevation of 5,000 feet (1500m) is reached. Thus, the effect of altitude on decreasing marathon performance in Missoula would be minimal, if any.
However, the NCAA does provide time adjustments for collegiate athletes for distance running events in Missoula. By extrapolating the time adjustments for distances of 3000, 5000 and 10000 meter running events for men and women, an individual would be given a 2:07 and 2:36 time adjustment for men and women, respectively, for the distance of 42km.
The weather conditions in Missoula during the early morning in July are ideal running conditions, 50-60 degrees F and 20-30% humidity. This is a more favorable environment for running performance than sea level conditions if there is heat and humidity. Any minimal effects of altitude would be conteracted by the favorable environmental conditions, thus making performance comparable to sea level.
Don't let Missoula's altitude prevent you from running the race and don't worry about it negatively affecting your performance if you're planning on running the race! See you in July!