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I wonder why marathon runners are so tactical.

As far as I watch them on TV, there seems no doubt to me that they control their pace according to that of others.

I just suspect it would be better if they ignored others and focused their attention on their own pace so that they could finish in the shortest possible time.

Why are marathon runners so tactical?

Any reasonable reason?

  • Why race faster than you need to in order to win? – Nij Sep 30 at 0:23
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    The goal is not to finish in the shortest possible time but to finish at the highest possible position. – Fair Player Sep 30 at 10:17
  • To finish at the highest possible position, you need to finish in the shortest possible time. – tchappy ha Sep 30 at 11:17
  • Maybe someone who actually runs long distance can chime in, but my understanding is that drafting is a factor like in cycling or auto racing. – pboss3010 Sep 30 at 12:40
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Marathons are a competitive sport. Runners want to finish with both the best time they can manage and ahead of other runners. Long distance running is a juggle managing your energy and reserves while not hurting yourself.

Runners often find that the competition of pacing someone produces an overall pace a little faster than they might have thought possible. Pacing the person directly behind you keeps him or her behind you. As the runner in front you might find that you can maintain your position at a slightly easier pace, that is with less injury. Even if the final time is only a second difference you are still ahead in the field (you know, 233rd instead of 234th out of 500). Pacing a person in front of you keeps him or her in catching distance either at the end or at another key point like a water stop.

Drafting is when one runner is literally tailing the runner directly in front of him or her. There is a benefit to drafting, but just like in cycling, constant drafting is both poor sportsmanship and dangerous.

Despite running being a solitary sport, it's still a competitive sport. Your body has a little more energy with the motivation of a competitor.

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