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Sports Medicine (2018) 48:2859–2867
ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE
Modeling theBenets ofCooperative Drafting: Is There anOptimal
Strategy toFacilitate aSub‑2‑Hour Marathon Performance?
WouterHoogkamer1 · KristineL.Snyder2· ChristopherJ.Arellano3
Published online: 8 October 2018
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018
Background During a race, competing cyclists often cooperate by alternating between leading and drafting positions. This
approach allows them to maximize velocity by using the energy saved while drafting, a technique to reduce the overall drag
by exploiting the leader’s slipstream. We have argued that a similar cooperative drafting approach could beneﬁt elite marathon
runners in their quest for the sub-2-hour marathon.
Objective Our aim was to model the eﬀects of various cooperative drafting scenarios on marathon performance by applying
the critical velocity concept for intermittent high-intensity running.
Methods We used the physiological characteristics of the world’s most elite long-distance runners and mathematically simu-
lated the depletion and recovery of their distance capacity when running above and below their critical velocity throughout
Results Our simulations showed that with four of the most elite runners in the world, a 2:00:48 (h:min:s) marathon is pos-
sible, a whopping 2min faster than the current world record. We also explored the possibility of a sub-2-hour marathon
using multiple runners with the physiological characteristics of Eliud Kipchoge, arguably the best marathon runner of our
time. We found that a team of eight Kipchoge-like runners could break the sub-2-hour marathon barrier.
Conclusion In the context of cooperative drafting, we show that the best team strategy for improving marathon performance
time can be optimized using a mathematical model that is based on the physiological characteristics of each athlete.
We revisit the possibility of a sub-2-hour marathon by
incorporating the critical velocity concept to model the
eﬀects of intermittent high-intensity running on mara-
With a cooperative drafting approach, four of the most
elite runners in the world could run a 2:00:48 (h:min:s)
marathon, 2min faster than the current world record.
We explored the possibility of a sub-2-hour marathon
using more runners and our model simulations predict
that a team of eight runners with the physiological char-
acteristics of Eliud Kipchoge could break the sub-2-hour
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this
article (https ://doi.org/10.1007/s4027 9-018-0991-4) contains
supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Wouter Hoogkamer
1 Locomotion Lab, Department ofIntegrative Physiology,
University ofColorado, Boulder, 354 UCB, Boulder,
2 Department ofMathematics andStatistics, Swenson College
ofScience andEngineering, University ofMinnesota,
Duluth, 104 Solon Campus Center, Duluth, MN55812, USA
3 Department ofHealth andHuman Performance, University
ofHouston, 3875 Holman St, Houston, TX77204-6015,