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Pace Versus Prediction: Is the Age of the Runner Associated With Marathon Success?

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:39 authored by Viviane Merzbach, Itay Basevitch, Adrian Scruton, Justin Roberts, Joe Biggins, Dan Gordon
INTRODUCTION: During closed-loop exercise, such as marathon running, the athlete adopts a pacing strategy to optimise performance. Exercise intensity (speed) is modulated in response to afferent signals from biological and psychological systems, which relay the responses of the exercise to the brain where efferent, homeostatic-orientated responses are issued. Thus a conscious perception of effort is continuously compared to a sub-conscious template which is derived from previous exposure to the sensations of pain and fatigue and expected exercise duration. The purpose of this study was to explore the association between pacing strategy/race outcome and biological age of the athlete. METHODS: Following local institutional ethical approval n = 777 runners who were competing in the 2015 London Marathon volunteered and agreed to participate. Age, gender and experience of the participants were ascertained using an online survey and opportunistic questionnaire surveying at the pre-marathon registration event. Age was stratified according to the following classifications: 18-39 yrs, 40-49 yrs, 50-59 yrs and >60 yrs. Additionally, participants were asked to predict their marathon finish time (PT) serving as a proxy for end-point and compared to actual finish time (FT). All participating runners 5km splits and FT were downloaded from the race website, converted to speed and then normalised (%) to the final split time/speed (m∙s-1). RESULTS: Significant differences were observed for all age groups (p < 0.001) between FT and PT except >60 yrs (p = 0.153). Non-significant differences observed between age groups across all 5km splits (p > 0.05), but within group differences observed between 10-15km for all age groups (p < 0.05). Medium to large effect sizes (ES) were observed at 30-35km for 18-39 yrs (ES = 0.37), 40-49yrs (ES = 0.34), 50-59yrs at 25-30km (ES = 0.37) and 30-35km (ES = 0.42) and >60yrs at 30-35km (ES = 0.53). CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that the biological age of the athlete is associated with the implementation of a successful pacing strategy and may be a function of the accrued training volume and/or emotional-event development. Athletes are encouraged to pace themselves with older (>60yrs) athletes with similar PT’s.




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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise




American College of Sports Medicine

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American College of Sports Medicine 63rd Annual Meeting

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American College of Sports Medicine 63rd Annual Meeting


Boston, MA

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  • Other


  • eng

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ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)

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