Home > Training

Study shows pack running effective race strategy

2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront MarathonFrom elite marathons, to regional road races, more often than not one sees runners in clumps. Whether that is the elite group flying by or a cluster around a four hour marathon pace bunny, the science has shown that this is a good race strategy to achieve desired results.

A new study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences has analyzed the split times of elite runners from the six IAAF World Half Marathon Championships between 2007-2014 and discovered that runners who ran in a pack slowed the least over the course of the race. The next most successful in maintaining pace were runners who ran in “nomadic packs,” defined as running in a pack for each of the four 5K splits considered, but not with the same runners continually.

Choosing the pack is of utmost importance though—going out too fast and becoming a part of a 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon“short-lived pack” (i.e. running the first 5K with a group that you know you can’t keep up with) and then running the rest of the race alone is not an effective race strategy. A pace group is only effective if you’re willing to be realistic about your goals in relation to your fitness.

The study showed that those who ran in a pack were able to speed up the most at the finish, which makes a lot of sense to anyone who has ever sprinted to the finish of a race—it feels a lot more urgent when you’re racing someone versus when you’re by yourself.