Physical and Biological Characteristics of a Marathon Runner

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

It takes a certain level of discipline and commitment to be a professional athlete. For instance, pro marathon runners train relentlessly to achieve optimal fitness and endurance. They train to build a powerful physique capable of running long distances without rest. Their muscles are conditioned to work harder, push farther. Unsurprisingly, all marathon runners share physiological characteristics. And in today’s post, we are listing down these traits.

Difference in Muscle Fibers

Marathon runners are all about endurance. Most marathon runners have high proportion of slow-twitch muscles. Unlike high twitch muscles, low twitch muscle fibers have higher aerobic capacity for energy production and resistance to fatigue. This allows a marathon runner to run for miles without getting tired.

However, possessing this trait is hereditary. This means some people are just born to run long distances. Athletes with fast twitch muscles have to work extra hard to achieve the same level of endurance as those blessed with slow twitch muscles.

Lactate Threshold

Lactate threshold refers to the body’s ability to accumulate lactic acid from anaerobic respiration. Marathon runners have higher lactate threshold than average athletes. This allows marathon runners and elite athletes to increase oxygen intake and boost lung capacity. Both factors are important in long-distance running. Pro marathon athletes have a lactate threshold of 85% of their VO2 Max. To compare, an average runner has a lactate threshold of 75-80% of their VO2 Max.

Superior Biomechanics

Some experts believe running is unnatural. The motion goes against the natural movement of the body. As such, running forces the body to perform a motion that it’s not designed to do.

The repetitive motion of running leads to overuse injuries. But unlike average folks, marathon runners have superior biomechanics. This gives them the edge when they run. For one thing, they have better running form. This allows them to run comfortably without injury. When they run, the footfalls put minimal lateral strain on the joints. Pro runners are also better at controlling their rhythm using their arms stroke and hip extensions. They can run long distances in uniform motions.

High Hemoglobin Rate

The higher the hemoglobin rate, the higher the level of oxygen is transported to the tissues, organs and cells. Professional marathon runners have higher hemoglobin rate than average people. This allows them to maximize each breath as they run. Their bodies are literally built with more hemoglobin. They can run long distances without fainting or losing energy. They stay alert despite miles of running because of efficient transportation of oxygen to the brain, lungs, and legs.

Blood Transportation to Working Muscles

Efficient transportation of energy also means energized muscles. The heart pounds more blood to the tissues, circulating 20 liters of blood in every minute. But a marathon runner’s heart is able to pump 70% more blood. The efficient blood flow guarantees maximum performance of muscles, organs and cells. That includes the runner’s legs. A marathon runner’s body is able to transport most blood to the legs. For instance, instead of focusing blood flow to the stomach and intestines to process food, a marathon runner’s body will direct the blood to the legs instead. The combination of more blood and focused blood circulation leads to endurance.

Facebook Fan Page

Be first to get an exclusive and helpful articles every day! Like us on Facebook