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Home >> Blog >> Anonymous >> Pacing: A Study

Pacing: A Study

  • Ultra Marathon
  • Medical
  • Training

Pacing is a learned strategy and is associated with regulating your effort level throughout a race. Pacing is important because it affects endurance running performance. Previous research showed faster marathon runners had a consistent pacing strategy.  This research also showed that females have more even pacing compared to males. 

Previous studies on pacing used flat terrain races. Pacing during a hilly terrain race has not been well described. This prompted our study which used results from the 2016 OMTOM 56-km race. In particular, we wanted to study running performance and pacing and also whether there were differences in pacing between males and females. This study was novel because of the hilly nature of the course. We also had a large sample of 7,327 runners.

We concluded : 1) females have more even pacing in a hilly 56-km ultramarathon course compared to males; and 2) this gender difference was maintained at all levels of race performance.

Explanations for the results include: 1) males may run down Chapman’s Peak too fast, which can negatively impact pacing up the climb to Constantia Nek.  In support of this, males were running at a similar relative speed compared to females on the first climb, while females ran relatively faster than males on the second climb. 2) males are more susceptible to muscle glycogen depletion than females; 3) females have more fatigue resistant skeletal musculature; and 4) psychological differences such as males having a more competitive attitude to running which can affect decision-making regarding how hard to run different sections of the course.  These explanations need to be confirmed in future studies.

Training Load study

There is a fine balance between training load and recovery. If this balance is not correct runners will underperform.  We want to understand how runners of all levels train before the OMTOM 56-km race. In particular we want to study the link between amount and intensity of training, race performance and pacing. We have a cohort of several hundred runners who load their training information into a specially designed database each day. This process has been automated to reduce the burden on the runners.  

We are currently analysing training data from these runners for the 6-8 weeks before the 2017 OMTOM 56-km race and the 3-4 weeks after the race. We will relate their training to performance and pacing during the race. This study will provide answers to the following questions; when to complete the longest run before the race?; how far should the longest run be?; what should the average weekly distance be  in the lead up to the race?; and, how long should runners rest after the race before they start training again?  

This study will continue before the 2018 race, so anyone interested in participating can contact Rebecca Johansson (rejohansson@gmail.com).

Rebecca Johansson

PhD candidate, Division of Exercise Science & Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.

rejohansson@gmail.com

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