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Bioenergetic constraints on tactical decision making in middle distance running

Jones, Andrew M. and Whipp, Brian J. (2002) Bioenergetic constraints on tactical decision making in middle distance running. British journal of sports medicine, 36 (2). pp. 102-104. ISSN 0306-3674

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Abstract

Background: The highest velocity that a runner can sustain during middle distance races is defined by the intersection of the runner’s individual velocity-time curve and the distance-time curve. The velocitytime curve is presumably fixed at the onset of a race; however, whereas the race distance is ostensibly fixed, the actual distance-time curve is not. That is, it is possible for a runner to run further than the race distance if he or she runs wide on bends in track races. In this instance, the point of intersection of the individual velocity-time curve and the distance-time curve will move downwards and to the right, reducing the best average velocity that can be sustained for the distance. Methods: To illustrate this point, the race tactics used by the gold and silver medallists at 800 m and 5000 m in the Sydney Olympics were analysed. The paths taken by the runners were carefully tracked and the total distance they covered during the races and the average velocity they sustained over the distances they actually covered were calculated. Results: In both the Olympic 800 m and 5000 m finals, for example, the winner was not the runner who ran at the highest average velocity in the race. Rather, the winners of these races were able to husband their metabolic resources to better effect by running closer to the actual race distance. Conclusions: Race results in middle distance running events are dependent not just on the energetic potential of the runners at the start of the race and their strategy for pace allocation, but also on the effect of their tactical approach to positioning on the total distance covered in the race. Middle distance runners should be conscious of minimising the distance covered in races if they wish to optimise their performance.

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