#1574: PaceProfile

I’m interested in the idea of a sub-two-hour marathon. The most common view seems to be that, if this is ever achieved, it will happen on a flat course.

It might be said that any hills on a marathon circuit add to finish times. When I plod around a much shorter, hillier route, however, I’m always aware that it’s a lot faster/easier in one direction than the other. In other words, the order in which any hills occur has a big effect on the completion time.

In particular, hills with a small, but sustained, upward gradient are good to encounter near the start so that the descent to the finish line can be used to boost one’s overall speed, when fatigued, nearer the end.

Today’s invention is therefore a marathon course specifically tuned to enable record times.

It would be designed with a number of sustained, gentle hills in the first half and a sequence of steeper descents towards the end. The precise slopes and their spacing could be determined from a programme of treadmill tests.

Once the best course profile was determined, this could be searched for among the known routes through cities or created synthetically inside a stadium, using multiple loops of an undulating, temporary track.


    • Oh, thanks for that.
      There is a guy I know, an ultra-runner, who is happy to run around a flat, 400m track for 24 hours. I think this illustrates that it’s not just about physical ability…most people need some kind of distraction when running for even 2 hours. I’d like to design a track which, for most people, provided the best sequence of physical and mental demands so as to allow record times.

      It’s a bit crazy to compare marathon times across courses anyway. Or am I missing something?

  1. I find the same with any exercise: it is just so boring. I know I could hook up some sort of scenic viewing program on a laptop to watch while on the rowing machine but it isn’t the same as writing or painting or even reading. I need some way to switch my brain off during exercise so that I’m not thinking about anything while doing it and don’t remember the time I’ve wasted afterwards. Or just resign myself to being fat 🙂

    • I was close to 19 stone once (mostly blubber). I found the best approach to any exercise was to start by doing an absurdly small amount eg five minutes gently on a rowing machine. Then stop. Then repeat say every three days. Then increase to six minutes…etc. I found if I did exercise in very small amounts, I could think about something interesting, ignore the pain and gradually substitute ‘flow’ for boredom.

      Ranulph Fiennes summed it up for me in connection with his climbing Everest. He resolved not to think about the end point but to focus only on taking the next step.

Comments are closed