Runners Discover Drafting

The recent attempt to break the 2 hour marathon came very close at 2:00:24, with various aids that would be deemed illegal under current IAAF rules. The bold and obvious aerodynamic aid appeared to be a Tesla fitted with an oversized digital clock leading the runners by a few meters.

2 Hour Marathon Attempt

However, after performing an idealized Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) study (with stationary runners), it was shown that the lead vehicle was not the main source of aerodynamic advantage. Instead it was simply the 'V' drafting formation of the pacers that significantly reduced the drag and therefore the effort of the primary runner (Eliud Kipchoge). In total, 30 pacers in 6 teams were rotated in and out of the attempt to aid the primary runner all the way to the end.

In most competitive marathons, drafting in the later stages of a race is not feasible. Either the leader is alone or there is a reduced group competing for the win and therefore drafting is actively discouraged by other competitors slowing or weaving so as not to allow the follower to benefit.