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Which lap is the slowest? An analysis of 32 world mile record performances
  1. T D Noakes1,
  2. M I Lambert1,
  3. R Hauman2,3
  1. 1
    UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2
    Association of Track and Field Statisticians, Parow, South Africa
  3. 3
    Association of Road Running Statisticians, Parow, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Timothy D Noakes, UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Boundary Road, Newlands, 7700, South Africa; timothy.noakes{at}


Objectives: The pacing strategies adopted by world-record breakers during the 1-mile footrace in order to evaluate different models for the biological basis of pacing was determined in this study.

Methods: Lap times in 32 world record performances were analysed. Average times for each of the four laps and as percentages of total race time were calculated.

Results: The slowest laps in 90% of races were either the second (34%) or the third (56%) laps. In only two (6%) records was the final lap the slowest, whereas in 24 (76%), it was either the fastest (38%) or the second fastest (38%) lap. Mean times for the second and third laps were both significantly slower than were times for the first or final laps, but there was no significant difference in times for the first and final lap.

Conclusion: The finding that world record beaters run the final lap in their quickest mile races faster than the second and third laps matches findings for races at longer distances. The presence of this “end spurt” suggests that the pacing strategy is regulated “in anticipation” and is not purely the result of a developing “peripheral fatigue”.

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  • Competing interests None.