The distance - time relationship over a century of running Olympic performances: a limit on the critical speed concept
DEKERLE, Jeanne, Nesi, X. and CARTER, HELEN (2006) The distance - time relationship over a century of running Olympic performances: a limit on the critical speed concept Journal of Sports Sciences, 24 (11). ISSN 0264-0414
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We analyse the evolution of the slope (critical speed) and the y-intercept (anaerobic distance capacity) of the linear distance-time relationship over a century of Olympic running performances. The distance-time relationship of each Olympic Games (1920-2004) was plotted using the performances in the 800-, 1500- and 5000-m track events. Values for critical speed and anaerobic distance capacity were determined by linear modelling. Mean performances for the 800, 1500 and 5000 m were 104.9 +/- 1.5 s (1.4%), 217.2 +/- 2.8 s (1.3%) and 808.9 +/- 18.4 s (2.3%), respectively. Critical speed improved during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century to reach a plateau in 1984. This is in accordance with the literature (Peronnet & Thibault, 1989) and suggests that "human aerobic endurance" has improved within the century (+13.4%) and tends to stabilize. Anaerobic distance capacity was highly variable over the century (coefficient of variation = 9.4%) and did not show a linear improvement over the years as has previously been suggested (Peronnet & Thibault, 1989). This could be due to an artefact in the application of the two-parameter model to only three Olympic performances. A limitation to the use of this linear mathematical model to fit physiological data may have been demonstrated.
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