I'm in the process of reading Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes–and What We Can Learn from Them by Mark McClusky - a great read so far - and I've just read chapter 8 "What Getting Tired Means". It's a chapter that talks about how science and research has changed the definition of what fatigue is and talks about how it is likely to be more of a mental state than a physical state.
It covers Tim Noakes' central governor theory and how various mental stimuli can be used to reduce the sense of fatigue and how drugs have been known to do the same thing. One little thing they brought up was the topic of tricking the mind by manipulating a runner's watch.
This got me thinking… how likely are we to get that sub-2 hour marathon if Dennis Kimetto's (or any other elite athlete) coach/manager and the Berlin marathon race organisers "rigged" things to make Dennis think he's running slower than he really is? What if they colluded to make Dennis's wristwatch and the clock on the lead car to run deliberately fast by a second or two per kilometer? Would this be enough to drive him to run even quicker and break the two hour mark or would he soon realise something was suss?
It's an interesting thing to ponder, especially as elite athletes are probably right on the edge of what they can do in terms of physicality without resorting to drugs.
The chapter did bring up another topic which intrigues me and which I'm looking into now: "brain endurance training". The idea is you perform mentally fatiguing exercises before and during training with the aim of reducing mental fatigue and perception of effort whilst racing. The book mentions some pretty amazing and impressive results from research performed by Samuele Marcora, a researcher at the University of Kent, that is definitely worth looking into.
Marcora is apparently working with British Athletic in their preparations for Rio so it'll be interesting to see how this research pans out over the next few years.
In the mean time, I'm off to scour the interwebs and I might start doing tough sudokus before my runs 🙂