Determinants of last lap speed in paced and maximal 1500-m time trials



The present study identified the physiological and performance characteristics that are deterministic during a maximal 1500-m time trial and in paced 1500-m time trials, with an all-out last lap.


Thirty-two trained middle-distance runners (n = 21 male, VO2peak: 72.1 ± 3.2; n = 11, female, VO2peak: 61.2 ± 3.7 mL kg−1 min−1) completed a 1500-m time trial in the fastest time possible (1500FAST) as well as a 1500MOD and 1500SLOW trial whereby mean speed was reduced during the 0–1100 m by 5% and 10%, respectively. Anaerobic speed reserve (ASR), running economy (RE), the velocity corresponding with VO2peak (VVO2peak), maximal sprint speed (MSS) and maximal accumulated oxygen deficit (MAOD) were determined during additional testing. Carnosine content was quantified by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the gastrocnemius and expressed as a Z-score to estimate muscle fibre typology.


1500FAST time was best explained by RE and VVO2peak in female runners (adjusted r2 = 0.80, P < 0.001), in addition to the 0–1100-m speed relative to VVO2peak in male runners (adjusted r2 = 0.72, P < 0.001). Runners with a higher gastrocnemius carnosine Z-score (i.e., higher estimated percentage of type II fibres) and greater MAOD, reduced their last lap time to a greater extent in the paced 1500-m trials. Neither ASR nor MSS was associated with last lap time in the paced trials.


These findings suggest that VVO2 peak and RE are key determinants of 1500-m running performance with a sustained pace from the start, while a higher carnosine Z-score and MAOD are more important for last lap speed in tactical 1500-m races.

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Fig. 1
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Fig. 5



Running economy

VVO2peak :

Minimal velocity that elicits VO2peak


Anaerobic speed reserve


Maximal sprinting speed


Critical speed


Curvature constant

VO2peak :

Peak oxygen uptake

1500FAST :

Maximal 1500-m time trial

1500MOD :

Moderately paced 1500-m time trial

1500SLOW :

Slow-paced 1500-m time trial


Maximal accumulated oxygen deficit

d :

Distance run




Coefficient of variation

VO2 :

Oxygen uptake


Gas exchange threshold


Time to exhaustion


Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy


Magnetic resonance imaging


Standard deviation


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Author information




PB, WD, EL, BA and CM conceived and designed research. PB, BK, HR and BA conducted experiments. WD and EL analysed 1H-MRS data. PB analysed training and performance data. PB wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Phillip Bellinger.

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The authors declare that we received internal funding from Griffith University which supported MR related costs for the data collection. The authors have no competing financial or non-financial interests to disclose. The results of the present study are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication.

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Bellinger, P., Derave, W., Lievens, E. et al. Determinants of last lap speed in paced and maximal 1500-m time trials. Eur J Appl Physiol (2020).

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  • Tactical racing
  • Anaerobic speed reserve
  • Muscle fibre type composition
  • Critical speed
  • D’
  • Carnosine
  • Pacing