The current study analysed the pacing behaviour of athletes competing in the middle-long track event finals of the IAAF Under 18 and Under 20 World Championships between 2015 and 2018. Official finishing times, 1000-m split times and positioning data of 116 female and 153 male athletes, competing in the middle-long distance running (3000 m, 5000 m and 10,000 m) and race walking (5000 m and 10,000 m) events, were gathered. Repeated measures analysis of variance, with 1000-m speed as within-subjects factor and final ranking (medallist, Top 8 or Top 12, rest of the field) as between-subjects factor, was performed to compare the pacing behaviour between athletes. Positioning of the athletes was analysed by Kendall tau-b (T-b) correlation between the intermediate position and final position. Overall, medallists increased their speed throughout a race, with the exception of the 5000 m running event, in which a parabolic pacing behaviour was exhibited. The 1000-m segment in which a significant (P > 0.05) difference in speed was exhibited between differently ranked athletes coincided with a strong (T-b > 0.7) correlation between intermediate and final positioning. These combined results point towards a separation between the athletes during the race, as the Top 8 or Top 12 and the rest of the field are unable to match the speed of the medallists. The distance, discipline, sex, age category and behaviour of competitors all influence the pacing behaviour of young track athletes during international level competition, emphasising the importance and complexity of developing adequate pacing behaviour in track athletes.
- race walking
- middle-long distance