Uneven but Conservative Pacing Is Associated With Performance During Uphill and Downhill Running

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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  • 1 Department of Kinesiology and Health, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
  • | 2 Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA, USA
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
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Purpose: To investigate the relationship between pacing strategy and performance during uphill and downhill running—specifically, what distribution of energy corresponds to faster race finish times between and among participants. Methods: Eighteen years of race data from a 10.2-mile running race with an uphill first half and a downhill second half were analyzed to identify relationships between pacing and performance. A pacing coefficient (PC), equal to a participant’s ascent time divided by finishing time (FT), was used to define each participant’s pacing strategy. The American College of Sports Medicine metabolic running equation was used to estimate energy expenditure during the ascent, descent, and total race. Statistical analyses compared participants’ PC to their FT and finishing place within their age and gender category. Additionally, FT and finishing place were compared between groups of participants who exhibited similar pacing strategies. Results: PCs were positively associated with faster FTs (r 2 = .120, P < .001) and better finishing positions (r 2 = .104, P < .001). PCs above .600 were associated with the fastest average FTs and best average finishing position within age and gender categories (all P ≤ .047). Conclusions: Participants performed the best when energy expenditure increased no more than 10.4% during the uphill portion compared to their overall average. It is not possible to state that overly aggressive uphill efforts resulted in premature fatigue and thus slower decent times and worse race performance. However, participants should still avoid overly aggressive uphill pacing, as performance was associated with larger PCs.

Johnson (evan.johnson@uwyo.edu) is corresponding author.

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