Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Alison Wade
Study finds that elite competitors who ran in packs slowed less throughout their races.
A new study Journal of Sport Sciences supports what many runners have anecdotally observed—if you want to race your best, you could benefit from running in a pack. Choose wisely, however, or it could backfire. That’s one of the reasons pace groups are can be so effective, except when they aren’t.
An analysis of the split times of elite performers at the six IAAF World Half Marathon Championships held between 2007 and 2014 revealed that athletes who ran in packs for the majority of the race slowed the least throughout the race. They were followed closely by those who ran in “nomadic packs,” meaning that they were in packs at each of the four 5K splits analyzed, but not with the same competitors.
Elite runners tend to utilize pack running more often than recreational runners, but recreational runners can benefit from pack running, too. Running solo, probably the most common strategy utilized by runners at your local 5K, was middle of the road as far as pacing effectiveness among the population studied.
The reason it’s important to choose wisely when selecting a pack to start with is that the least effective pacing strategy was the “short-lived” pack, in which competitors were with a pack at the 5K mark of the half marathon but ran the rest of the way solo.
One way in which pack running is artificially but often effectively utilized by runners farther back in the pack is through pace groups offered at many larger road races. If you choose the right group, and your pacers deliver the correct pace, pace groups can be highly effective. Start too ambitiously, however, and it will backfire, as proven by the IAAF World Half Marathon Championship competitors studied.