Evolutionary Pattern of Improved 1-Mile Running Performance

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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The official world records (WR) for the 1-mile run for men (3:43.13) and for women (4:12.58) have improved 12.2% and 32.3%, respectively, since the first WR recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Previous observations have suggested that the pacing pattern for successive laps is characteristically faster-slower-slowest-faster. However, modeling studies have suggested that uneven energy-output distribution, particularly a high velocity at the end of the race, is essentially wasted kinetic energy that could have been used to finish sooner. Here the authors report that further analysis of the pacing pattern in 32 men’s WR races is characterized by a progressive reduction in the within-lap variation of pace, suggesting that improving the WR in the 1-mile run is as much about how energetic resources are managed as about the capacity of the athletes performing the race. In the women’s WR races, the pattern of lap times has changed little, probably secondary to a lack of depth in the women’s fields. Contemporary WR performances have been achieved a coefficient of variation of lap times on the order of 1.5–3.0%. Reasonable projection suggests that the WR is overdue for improving and may require lap times with a coefficient of variation of ~1%.

Foster is with the Dept of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse, La Crosse, WI. de Koning is with the Dept of Human Movement Sciences, VU University–Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Thiel is with the University of Applied Science–Bochum, Bochum, Germany. Address author correspondence to Carl Foster at cfoster@uwlax.edu.