PURPOSE: The study was designed to determine the effect of drafting on running time, physiological response and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) during 3000m-track running.
METHODS: Ten elite middle and long distance runners performed three track-running sessions. The first session determined maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and maximal aerobic speed (MAS) using a lightweight ambulatory respiratory gas exchange system (K4B2). The second and the third tests consisted of non-drafting 3000m running (3000mND) and 3000m running with drafting for the first 2000m (3000mD) performed on the track in a randomized counter-balanced order.
RESULTS: Performance during the 3000m (553.59±22.15 s) was significantly slower (p<0.05) than during the 3000mD (544.74±18.72 s). Cardiorespiratory responses were not significantly different between the trials. However, blood lactate concentration was significantly higher (p<0.05) after the 3000mND (16.4±2.3mmol.L-1) than after the 3000mD (13.2±5.6mmol.L-1). Athletes perceived the 3000mND as more strenuous than the 3000mD (p<0.05) (RPE = 16.1±0.8 vs. 13.1±1.3). Results demonstrate that drafting has a significant effect on performance in highly trained runners.
CONCLUSION: This effect could not be explained by a reduced energy expenditure or cardio-respiratory effort as a result of drafting. This raises the possibility that drafting may aid running performance by both physiological and non-physiological (i.e. psychological) effects.