THE PERFORMANCE STRATEGY

Explaining the INEOS 1:59 Challenge Pacemaker Formation
The INEOS 1:59 Challenge didn’t just write a new chapter in the history of human endeavour and prove that no human is limited. The work of the INEOS 1:59 Performance Team supporting Eliud Kipchoge also created a completely new way to run marathons.
One of the critical elements in this was the extraordinary formation used by the pace-making team, developed by INEOS 1:59 Performance Team and Data Scientist Robby Ketchell (now working for INEOS Grenadiers).
It was something that had never been done before - runners have never run in this formation before.
Sir Dave Brailsford
The INEOS 1:59 Challenge didn’t just write a new chapter in the history of human endeavour and prove that no human is limited. The work of the INEOS 1:59 Performance Team supporting Eliud Kipchoge also created a completely new way to run marathons.
One of the critical elements in this was the extraordinary formation used by the pace-making team, developed by INEOS 1:59 Performance Team and Data Scientist Robby Ketchell (now working for INEOS Grenadiers).
It was something that had never been done before - runners have never run in this formation before.
Sir Dave Brailsford
Anything or anyone moving through air meets resistance from the air (called drag) that must be pushed out of the way. It is the first part of the object -- or the first person in a group -- that meets most of this resistance and must expend the energy to overcome it.
If someone were to stick their hand out of the side window of a moving car, they would immediately feel the effect of the air resistance and have to work to keep the hand in the same place. Pull the hand back inside, and the car goes back to doing the work.
Enter the pacemaker: he or she encounters the air resistance first, pushing the air out of the way as they move through it, allowing other runners to tuck in behind them and gain the benefit of what’s called drafting. Drafting behind other competitors or pacemakers has helped set many records over the years, including Roger Bannister’s original four-minute mile.
Anything or anyone moving through air meets resistance from the air (called drag) that must be pushed out of the way. It is the first part of the object -- or the first person in a group -- that meets most of this resistance and must expend the energy to overcome it.
If someone were to stick their hand out of the side window of a moving car, they would immediately feel the effect of the air resistance and have to work to keep the hand in the same place. Pull the hand back inside, and the car goes back to doing the work.
Enter the pacemaker: he or she encounters the air resistance first, pushing the air out of the way as they move through it, allowing other runners to tuck in behind them and gain the benefit of what’s called drafting. Drafting behind other competitors or pacemakers has helped set many records over the years, including Roger Bannister’s original four-minute mile.
“We worked with TotalSim, a UK company that specialises in aerodynamic research. We partnered with them and we provided our intelligence in terms of what we know from running. We suggested the formations to test in order to research and study the best optimal solution for Eliud.”
The team did some wind tunnel testing but CFD is much faster and more efficient at going through lots of options.
Robby Ketchell
“We did hundreds of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) runs and those computer simulations can take anywhere from two to four hours to run in a stable solution, or in what we call an unsteady solution they can take up to 15 hours. The team also did some wind tunnel testing to corroborate the answers they got from the CFD -- but CFD is much faster and more efficient at going through lots of options.”
“We worked with TotalSim, a UK company that specialises in aerodynamic research. We partnered with them and we provided our intelligence in terms of what we know from running. We suggested the formations to test in order to research and study the best optimal solution for Eliud.”
The team did some wind tunnel testing but CFD is much faster and more efficient at going through lots of options.
Robby Ketchell
“We did hundreds of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) runs and those computer simulations can take anywhere from two to four hours to run in a stable solution, or in what we call an unsteady solution they can take up to 15 hours. The team also did some wind tunnel testing to corroborate the answers they got from the CFD -- but CFD is much faster and more efficient at going through lots of options.”
The answer from the CFD studies was not the whole story though, as Ketchell was anxious to point out. “I had many hours of explaining the results that we got from CFD, trying to educate the coaches, and share with the runners, because this was a real innovation,” he said, referring to the inverse-V formation that Kipchoge and his pacing team used, a formation that had never before been seen in running.
People were asking ‘can this actually be done?
Robby Ketchell
“No athletes have ever tried — even in cycling or anything like that -- to be in a formation that even resembles what we did with this kind of inverse-V configuration. When we initially looked at it there was a lot of concern. People were asking ‘can this actually be done? Can it be implemented in the real world?”
The answer from the CFD studies was not the whole story though, as Ketchell was anxious to point out. “I had many hours of explaining the results that we got from CFD, trying to educate the coaches, and share with the runners, because this was a real innovation,” he said, referring to the inverse-V formation that Kipchoge and his pacing team used, a formation that had never before been seen in running.
People were asking ‘can this actually be done?
Robby Ketchell
“No athletes have ever tried — even in cycling or anything like that -- to be in a formation that even resembles what we did with this kind of inverse-V configuration. When we initially looked at it there was a lot of concern. People were asking ‘can this actually be done? Can it be implemented in the real world?”
Many of the formations being tested had never been run before. As Robby mentioned, many people even doubted whether they would be possible to run in. To learn something new, however, one simply has to practice, gain some feedback, and practice again. So that is what the team did.
Firstly, under the instruction of Athlete Manager Valentijn Trouw and Lead Coach Patrick Sang, Eliud and his training partners, many of whom were pacemakers in the Challenge, practised several possible formations in their camp in Kaptagat, Kenya.
Then, in late August, 30 athletes were invited to Vienna for a testing weekend where the team looked at the final formation, how it would work on the actual course and with a pace setting vehicle and laser in front of them.
Many of the formations being tested had never been run before. As Robby mentioned, many people even doubted whether they would be possible to run in. To learn something new, however, one simply has to practice, gain some feedback, and practice again. So that is what the team did.
Firstly, under the instruction of Athlete Manager Valentijn Trouw and Lead Coach Patrick Sang, Eliud and his training partners, many of whom were pacemakers in the Challenge, practised several possible formations in their camp in Kaptagat, Kenya.
Then, in late August, 30 athletes were invited to Vienna for a testing weekend where the team looked at the final formation, how it would work on the actual course and with a pace setting vehicle and laser in front of them.
Meanwhile, the pacers themselves were being recruited by the INEOS 1:59 Performance Team, so that Ketchell and his colleagues would know the resource they had to work with and could work out the strategy for the pacing team. To achieve this, they also had to apply physiological models to the formation.
we're providing a much larger benefit to Eliud from reducing his drag
Robby Ketchell
“Those models were actually looking at what the impact was on all of the pacers; because the team only had a limited number of runners. When you think about it, it does seem natural that if we're providing a much larger benefit to Eliud from reducing his drag, then it’s taking up more resources [energy] from the pacers. Meaning the drag on them is much larger. There are not many athletes in the world that can take that level of drag going at the speed they had to go for 5KM or 10KM.”
Meanwhile, the pacers themselves were being recruited by the INEOS 1:59 Performance Team, so that Ketchell and his colleagues would know the resource they had to work with and could work out the strategy for the pacing team. To achieve this, they also had to apply physiological models to the formation.
we're providing a much larger benefit to Eliud from reducing his drag
Robby Ketchell
“Those models were actually looking at what the impact was on all of the pacers; because the team only had a limited number of runners. When you think about it, it does seem natural that if we're providing a much larger benefit to Eliud from reducing his drag, then it’s taking up more resources [energy] from the pacers. Meaning the drag on them is much larger. There are not many athletes in the world that can take that level of drag going at the speed they had to go for 5KM or 10KM.”
Part of that strategy was the changeovers of the formation every 5KM. This changeover was rehearsed repeatedly both in Kenya and Vienna. In Vienna, the coaching team, led by Head of Pacemakers Spencer Barden and Athlete Manager Valentijn Trouw, worked with coaching analytics company Insight-Analysis to ensure the pacers were coached effectively to both run in the right shape and were able to change over as smoothly as possible.
“Overall, you're trying to balance the impact of and weigh the pros and the cons of all these different variables”, said Robby Ketchell. “This results in this decision matrix from the different analysis that you do... there's an iterative process of the different pieces and components that come together to make the best decision. I think it's how it all came together to create the ultimate situation.”
It all came together to create the ultimate situation.
Robby Ketchell
And come together it certainly did, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone as Eliud Kipchoge proved to the world that no human is limited.
Part of that strategy was the changeovers of the formation every 5KM. This changeover was rehearsed repeatedly both in Kenya and Vienna. In Vienna, the coaching team, led by Head of Pacemakers Spencer Barden and Athlete Manager Valentijn Trouw, worked with coaching analytics company Insight-Analysis to ensure the pacers were coached effectively to both run in the right shape and were able to change over as smoothly as possible.
“Overall, you're trying to balance the impact of and weigh the pros and the cons of all these different variables”, said Robby Ketchell. “This results in this decision matrix from the different analysis that you do... there's an iterative process of the different pieces and components that come together to make the best decision. I think it's how it all came together to create the ultimate situation.”
It all came together to create the ultimate situation.
Robby Ketchell
And come together it certainly did, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone as Eliud Kipchoge proved to the world that no human is limited.

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