Ciara Mageean’s World Class Performance
Despite concerns about the heat and humidity in the endurance events in Doha, Ciara Mageean produced the performance of her life in the 1500m final. After battling through the qualifying rounds earlier in the week, Mageean became the first Irish female to make a World Championship final in over 20 years and the second Irish woman in history to make a World Championship final in the 1500m (Sonia O’Sullivan being the first).
Mageean gave it everything in the final and finished in 10th place in a personal best time in 4:00:15, beating her existing best time by over one second. Generally speaking, personal best performances are attained in lower calibre competitions when the pressure is lower and to do so during a World Championship is a feat in itself (Olympic and World Championship finals are rarely won in record times).
For Ciara to step off the track with a personal best during the biggest race of her athletics career to date is simply outstanding.
The Challenges of the 1500m Race
The 1500m is both a scientific and tactical event. Athletes from both 800m and 3000m disciplines compete in the 1500m event meaning that the field is generally comprised of aerobic-based competitors who can maintain a faster pace for longer and critical anaerobic runners who can sustain a slower pace but exploit high anaerobic speed endurance when needed. The demands of the race are similar to that of the 800 metres, but with a slightly higher emphasis on aerobic endurance and a slightly lower sprint speed requirement.
The 1500 metre race is predominantly aerobic, but anaerobic conditioning is also required. Athletes require a tactical game plan that plays to their personal athletic strengths going into the 1500m, they also need the confidence to stick to their plan and adapt to the race demands as they unfold on the track. If the race is slow, aerobic endurance runners want to push the pace and anaerobic speedrunners want to ensure they do not get caged in, thus the opening laps can be brutal with athletes battling for control and position.
Athletes who lack experience or confidence can often panic in these early stages, confidence and concentration is key to producing a personal best performance. Running above and beyond your perceived capabilities when it matters most is the ultimate dream for athletes and it often takes years of undulating challenges to achieve.
How Tapers work for a Personal Best
In addition to honing the psychological side of producing a personal best performance, arriving at the final line of a World Championship final well rested, in peak condition epitomises the combination of the art and science of coaching, the careful design of training and competitive seasons (particularly seasons that peak late in the Athletic year i.e. October) is challenging and takes years of careful refinement to achieve. Figuring out what constitutes a well-designed taper is a personal and highly individual process between an athlete and coach.
A taper involves careful reduction in training to optimise reserve of peak condition, reduce risk of burnout and overtraining but also avoid detraining or undertraining. A successful taper can lead to a 2 to 3 percent increase in performance is the norm, with a range of 0.5 to 6 percent.