Drafting – runners should do it too

Image|Unsplash https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1613936360976-8f35cf0e5461?crop=entropy&cs=tinysrgb&fm=jpg&ixlib=rb-1.2.1&q=80&raw_url=true&ixid=MnwxMjA3fDB8MHxwaG90by1wYWdlfHx8fGVufDB8fHx8&auto=format&fit=crop&w=1074

Drafting – Runners need to do it on race days and for PBs/PRs


Eliud Kipchoge used a relatively complex drafting strategy to break 2 hours for the marathon in 2019. Whereas, you and I probably just ran as fast as we could over our last 5k or triathlon.

New research suggests that a solo runner could use over 5% of their gross metabolic power to overcome air resistance and could save at least half of that power by drafting.

The tests were conducted under laboratory conditions and based on real-world running speeds of between 12km/h and 16km/h (5:00/km to 3:45/km). The authors make the following general observation

Combining our findings with those of previous aerodynamics studies, we estimate that for a solo runner (52 kg) at 2-hour marathon pace, overcoming aerodynamic drag force (1.39% BW) comprises 7.8% of their gross metabolic power and drafting can save between 3 min 42s and 5 min 29s

Source: physiology.org (Edson Soares da Silva, R. Kram and W. Hoogkamer. 2022)

Probably you weigh more than 52kg, definitely, you won’t be running a 2-hour marathon and maybe your running efficiency is different to mine. There are lots of variables involved but it’s clear that any of us will save notable amounts of energy that will, for sure, translate to savings of seconds or 10s of seconds in our next race.

If you’ve trained for years then in order to improve your running race time by 1%, you are going to need a lot of dedicated training. Cyclists know that 1% gains are easily possible by buying more aero kit. But runners have only really considered the option of free speed by buying super shoes.

Now all you have to do is closely follow the person in front and hope they are aiming for a time slightly faster than you’d otherwise achieve!

Of course, you probably already knew that drafting when running helped a bit but now, it seems, science has quantified that ‘the bit’ that can be saved is probably bigger than we’d previously imagined.

Related science: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33933863/

Related science: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34872462/

Stryd’s running pod is the only running tool which claims to properly take into account the effects of wind speed and drafting.


Running Economy: Super Shoes vs Crocs



Reader-Powered Content

This content is not sponsored. It’s mostly me behind the labour of love which is this site and I appreciate everyone who follows, subscribes or Buys Me A Coffee ❤️ Alternatively please buy the reviewed product from my partners. Thank you! FTC: Affiliate Disclosure: Links pay commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

5 thoughts on “Drafting – runners should do it too

  1. or encourage the person you are going to follow that they will definitely make it if they run that bit faster than usual, and don’t mention it when they hit the wall and you run off looking for another shield to run behind…

  2. Funny thing is…even the person in front of you might save some tiny 0,01% due to you drafting behind…if bycicle drafting principles apply accordingly… New studies needed!! 🙂

  3. Drafted off pacers on my way to a boston qualifier. I guess you need good pacers for that but it definitely helps to zone out and follow them. Did it again with my brother pacing me on a bike for virtual boston.

    Never understood how I would see people running in front of the pacers like they didn’t want them to get passed.

Comments are closed.