Prior experience of fatiguing tasks is considered essential to establishing an optimal pacing strategy. This study examined the pacing behavior of inexperienced children during self-paced, 800 m running, both individually and within a competitive environment. Thirteen children (aged 9-11 y) completed a graded-exercise test to volitional exhaustion on a treadmill (laboratory trial), followed by three self-paced, individual 800 m time-trials (Trials 1-3) and one self-paced, competitive 800 m time-trial (Trial 4) on an outdoor athletics track. Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and heart rate (HR) were measured throughout all trials. Overall performance time improved from Trial 1-3 (250.1 ± 50.4 s & 242.4 ± 51.5 s, respectively, p < .017). The difference in overall performance time between Trials 3 and 4 (260.5 ± 54.2 s) was approaching significance (p = .06). The pacing strategy employed from the outset was consistent across all trials. These findings dispute the notion that an optimal pacing strategy is learned with exercise experience or training.
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