University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Evolution of 1500m Olympic Running Performance

Foster, C., Hanley, B., Barroso, R., Boullosa, D., Casado, A., Haugen, T., Hettinga, F., Jones, A., Renfree, Andrew ORCID:, Skiba, P., St Clair Gibson, A., Thiel, C. and de Koning, J. (2023) Evolution of 1500m Olympic Running Performance. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. ISSN 1555-0265

1500m paper.pdf - Accepted Version

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Purpose: This study determined the evolution of performance and pacing for each winner of the men’s Olympic 1500m running track final from 1924-2020. Methods: Data were obtained from publicly available sources. When official splits were unavailable, times from sources such as YouTube were included and interpolated from video records. Final times, lap splits, and position in the peloton were included. The data are presented relative to 0-400 m, 400-800 m, 800-1200 m and 1200-1500 m. Critical speed (CS) and D′ were calculated using athletes’ season’s best times.
Results: Performance improved ~25 s from 1924-2020, with most improvement (~19 s) occurring in the first 10 finals. However, only 2 performances were World Records, and only one runner won the event twice. Pacing evolved from a fast start–slow middle–fast finish pattern (reverse J shaped) to a slower start with steady acceleration in the second half (J-shaped). The coefficient of variation for lap speeds ranged from 1.4-15.3%, consistent with a highly tactical pacing pattern. With few exceptions, the eventual winners were near the front throughout, although rarely in the leading position. There is evidence of a general increase in both CS and D′ that parallels performance. Conclusions: An evolution in the pacing pattern occurred across several “eras” in the history of Olympic 1500m racing, consistent with better trained athletes and improved technology. There has been a consistent tactical approach of following opponents until the latter stages, and athletes should develop tactical flexibility, related to their CS and D′, in planning pre race strategy.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

Manuscript has been published online as Ahead of Print:
Accepted author manuscript version reprinted, by permission, from International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2023,

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: Athletics, Olympics, Pacing, Racing, Track
Subjects: Q Science > QP Physiology
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Sport and Exercise Science
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Andrew Renfree
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2023 08:21
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 10:23

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