The ratio of uphill pace to downhill pace in a foot race up and down a single mountain is used as a measure of a competitor’s descending skills – those qualities which are needed for fast descent but not for ascent. For the set of competitors in each of 44 races on seven courses of differing gradients and terrain roughnesses, we calculate the variance of this pace ratio and do linear regressions of pace ratio on finish time and on competitors’ age. The variances tend to be greater for races on steeper and rougher terrain, indicating a greater influence of descending skills on actual descent speeds in these races. The regression analysis shows a clear negative correlation with finish time, indicating that faster finishers tend to be those with better descending skills, but there is little evidence of correlation with age. Significant differences between the sexes are only found in races on the most difficult terrain, where men display better descending skills than women.
The author knows of several steeper uphill-only races in the Alps, and one steeper downhill-only race in Wales (Kay, 2012b)
This study would not have been possible without all the hard work of race organisers and their willingness to make full race results freely available. Their websites (accessed 9 July 2013) are: runpikespeak.com [Barr Trail]; www.snowdonrace.co.uk [Snowdon]; westerlandsccc.co.uk/races.php [Ben Lomond]; www.newcastleac.org/ [Slieve Donard]; www.breconfans.org.uk/pen-y-fan-race; [Pen y Fan] www.cfra.co.uk [Scafell Pike]; mmr.seward.com [Mount Marathon]. Several race organisers and photographers have corresponded with me and provided useful information or permission to reuse photographs: Crispin Flower, David Eiser, Hugh Suffern, John Garner, Stephen Edwards. Special thanks go to those unsung race officials who stand on mountain tops in all weathers, recording competitors’ times.
Davies, C. T. M., A. J. Sargeant, and B. Smith. 1974. “The physiological responses to downhill running.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 32: 187–194.10.1007/BF00423214Search in Google Scholar PubMed
Gottschall, J. S. and R. Kram. 2005. “Ground reaction forces during downhill and uphill running.” Journal of Biomechanics 38: 445–452.10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.04.023Search in Google Scholar PubMed
Kay, A. 2012a. “Route choice in hilly terrain.” Geographical Analysis 44: 87–108.10.1111/j.1538-4632.2012.00838.xSearch in Google Scholar
Kay, A. 2012b. “Pace and critical gradient for hill runners: an analysis of race records.” Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports 8, issue 4. DOI: 10.1515/1559-0410.1456.10.1515/1559-0410.1456Search in Google Scholar
Liefeldt, G., T. D. Noakes and S. C. Dennis. 1992. “Oxygen delivery does not limit peak running speed during incremental downhill running to exhaustion.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 64: 493–496.10.1007/BF00843756Search in Google Scholar PubMed
Lima-Silva, A. E., R. C. M. Bertuzzi, F. O. Pires, R. V. Barros, J. F. Gagliardi, J. Hammond, M. A. Kiss and D. J. Bishop. 2010. “Effect of performance level on pacing strategy during a 10-km running race.” European Journal of Applied Physiology 108: 1045–1053.10.1007/s00421-009-1300-6Search in Google Scholar PubMed
March, D. S., P. M. Vanderburgh, P. J. Titlebaum and M. L. Hoops. 2011. “Age, sex and finish time as determinants of pacing in the marathon.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 25: 386–391.10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bffd0fSearch in Google Scholar PubMed
Minetti, A. E., C. Moia, G. S. Roi, D. Susta and G. Ferretti. 2002. “Energy cost of walking and running at extreme uphill and downhill slopes.” Journal of Applied Physiology 93: 1039–1046.10.1152/japplphysiol.01177.2001Search in Google Scholar PubMed
Scarf, P. 2007. “Route choice in mountain navigation, Naismith’s rule, and the equivalence of distance and climb.” Journal of Sports Sciences 25: 719–726.10.1080/02640410600874906Search in Google Scholar PubMed
Staab, J. S., J. W. Agnew and S. F. Siconolfi. 1992. “Metabolic and performance responses to uphill and downhill running in distance runners.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 24: 124–127.10.1249/00005768-199201000-00020Search in Google Scholar
Townshend, A. D., C. J. Worringham and I. B. Stewart. 2010. “Spontaneous pacing during overground hill running.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 42: 160–169.10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181af21e2Search in Google Scholar PubMed
©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston