Pacing in Olympic track races: competitive tactics versus best performance strategy.

C. Thiel, C. Foster, W Banzer, J.J. de Koning

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    The purpose of this study was to describe pacing strategies in the 800 to 10,000-m Olympic finals. We asked 1) if Olympic finals differed from World Records, 2) how variable the pace was, 3) whether runners faced catastrophic events, and 4) for the winning strategy.Publically available data from the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games gathered by four transponder antennae under the 400-m track were analysed to extract descriptors of pacing strategies. Individual pacing patterns of 133 finalists were visualised using speed by distance plots.Six of eight plots differed from the patterns reported for World Records. The coefficient of running speed variation was 3.6-11.4%. In the long distance finals, runners varied their pace every 100 m by a mean 1.6-2.7%. Runners who were 'dropped' from the field achieved a stable running speed and displayed an endspurt. Top contenders used variable pacing strategies to separate themselves from the field. All races were decided during the final lap.Olympic track finalists employ pacing strategies which are different from World Record patterns. The observed micro- and macro-variations of pace may have implications for training programmes. Dropping off the pace of the leading group is an active step, and the result of interactive psychophysiological decision making. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1107-1115
    JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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