Increased Variability of Lap Speeds: Differentiating Medalists and Nonmedalists in Middle-Distance Running and Swimming Events

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Previous literature has presented pacing data of groups of competition finalists. The aim of this study was to analyze the pacing patterns displayed by medalists and nonmedalists in international competitive 400-m swimming and 1500-m running finals.


Split times were collected from 48 swimming finalists (four 100-m laps) and 60 running finalists (4 laps) in international competitions from 2004 to 2012. Using a cross-sectional design, lap speeds were normalized to whole-race speed and compared to identify variations of pace between groups of medalists and nonmedalists. Lap-speed variations relative to the gold medalist were compared for the whole field.


In 400-m swimming the medalist group demonstrated greater variation in speed than the nonmedalist group, being relatively faster in the final lap (P < .001; moderate effect) and slower in laps 1 (P = .03; moderate effect) and 2 (P > .001; moderate effect). There were also greater variations of pace in the 1500-m running medalist group than in the nonmedalist group, with a relatively faster final lap (P = .03; moderate effect) and slower second lap (P = .01; small effect). Swimming gold medalists were relatively faster than all other finalists in lap 4 (P = .04), and running gold medalists were relatively faster than the 5th- to 12th-placed athletes in the final lap (P = .02).


Athletes who win medals in 1500-m running and 400-m swimming competitions show different pacing patterns than nonmedalists. End-spurtspeed increases are greater with medalists, who demonstrate a slower relative speed in the early part of races but a faster speed during the final part of races than nonmedalists.

Mytton is with the Dept for Sport and Tourism, Sunderland College, Sunderland, UK. Archer is with the Dept of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK. Turner is with the Dept of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Skorski is with the Inst of Sports and Preventive Medicine, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany. Renfree is with the Inst of Sport & Exercise Science, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK. Thompson is with Research Inst for Sport and Exercise (UCRISE), University of Canberra, Canberra, Australia. St Clair Gibson is with the School of Medicine, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Address author correspondence to Graham Mytton at