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Purpose:

To determine the effect of drafting on running time, physiological response, and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) during 3000-m track running.

Methods:

Ten elite middle- and long-distance runners performed 3 track-running sessions. The 1st session determined maximal oxygen uptake and maximal aerobic speed using a lightweight ambulatory respiratory gasexchange system (K4B2). The 2nd and the 3rd tests consisted of nondrafting 3000-m running (3000-mND) and 3000-m running with drafting for the 1st 2000 m (3000-mD) performed on the track in a randomized counterbalanced order.

Results:

Performance during the 3000-mND (553.59 ± 22.15 s) was significantly slower (P < .05) than during the 3000-mD (544.74 ± 18.72 s). Cardiorespiratory responses were not significantly different between the trials. However, blood lactate concentration was significantly higher (P < .05) after the 3000-mND (16.4 ± 2.3 mmol/L) than after the 3000-mD (13.2 ± 5.6 mmol/L). Athletes perceived the 3000-mND as more strenuous than the 3000-mD (P < .05) (RPE = 16.1 ± 0.8 vs 13.1 ± 1.3). Results demonstrate that drafting has a significant effect on performance in highly trained runners.

Conclusion:

This effect could not be explained by a reduced energy expenditure or cardiorespiratory effort as a result of drafting. This raises the possibility that drafting may aid running performance by both physiological and nonphysiological (ie, psychological) effects.

Zouhal, Prioux, Bouguerra, and Kebsi are with the Movement, Sport, and Health Sciences Laboratory, University of Rennes 2, Rennes, France. Ben Abderrahman is with the Higher Inst of Sport and Physical Education of Tunis, University of Manouba, Tunis, Tunisia. Knechtle is with the Inst of General Practice and for Health Services Research, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. Noakes is with the MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa. Address author correspondence to Hassane Zouhal at hassane.zouhal@univ-rennes2.fr.