Drafting in cycling influences collective behavior of pelotons. Although evidence for collective behavior in competitive running events exists, it is not clear if this results from energetic savings conferred by drafting. This study modeled the effects of drafting on behavior in elite 10,000-m runners.
Using performance data from a men’s elite 10,000-m track running event, computer simulations were constructed using Netlogo 5.1 to test the effects of 3 different drafting quantities on collective behavior: no drafting, drafting to 3 m behind with up to ~8% energy savings (a realistic running draft), and drafting up to 3 m behind with up to 38% energy savings (a realistic cycling draft). Three measures of collective behavior were analyzed in each condition: mean speed, mean group stretch (distance between first- and last-placed runner), and runner-convergence ratio (RCR), which represents the degree of drafting benefit obtained by the follower in a pair of coupled runners.
Mean speeds were 6.32 ± 0.28, 5.57 ± 0.18, and 5.51 ± 0.13 m/s in the cycling-draft, runner-draft, and no-draft conditions, respectively (all P < .001). RCR was lower in the cycling-draft condition but did not differ between the other 2. Mean stretch did not differ between conditions.
Collective behaviors observed in running events cannot be fully explained through energetic savings conferred by realistic drafting benefits. They may therefore result from other, possibly psychological, processes. The benefits or otherwise of engaging in such behavior are as yet unclear.
Trenchard is an independent researcher in Victoria, BC, Canada. Renfree and Peters are with the Inst of Sport & Exercise Science, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK.