Professional runners with the ability to run a marathon in less than two hours take in oxygen twice as fast as a normal person of the same age, a new study found.
Researchers at the University of Exeter analyzed the oxygen uptake rate of top athletes for less than two minutes as part of the Nike-run Marathon Breaking2 project.
Elite runners need a certain combination of physiological skills to run a marathon under two hours, new research shows.
These skills include the ability to achieve the "perfect balance" of VO2 (rate of oxygen uptake) during a run – and experts found it to be twice as fast as a "normal person".
Some of the elite runners were tested at the Exeter Arena and researchers found that they take in twice as much oxygen as a normal person of the same age
Professor Andrew Jones, author of the study, said the results show that elite marathon runners need to balance VO2 with efficiency of movement.
They also require a high "lactate inflection point" – the point above which the body experiences more fatigue, also known as the wall.
VO2 MAX: MAXIMUM OXYGEN CONSUMPTION RATE
VO2 max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during exercise as the intensity increases.
It can be used as a measure of endurance fitness to compare training between two people.
A higher oxygen consumption reflects the fitness and endurance capacity.
Recent studies have shown that an elite marathon runner uses twice as much oxygen as a normal person of the same age.
It is expressed as the absolute rate in liters of oxygen per minute or as the relative rate of oxygen per kg of body mass.
"Some of the results – especially the VO2 max – weren't as high as expected," said Professor Jones.
“Instead, we see the physiology of these runners as a perfect balance of characteristics for marathon performance.
"The requirements of a two hour marathon have been discussed at length, but the actual physiological requirements have never been reported."
One of the runners in the study was Eliud Kipchoge, who narrowly missed the two-hour goal – but later reached the goal in 1: 59: 40.2 in the Ineos 1: 59 challenge.
Based on outdoor running tests on 16 athletes in the Breaking2 selection phase, the study found that a 130-pound runner needs about seven liters of oxygen per minute to maintain a two-hour marathon pace of 13 mph.
"To run at this speed for two hours, athletes need to maintain what we call 'stationary' VO2," said Professor Jones.
"This means that they get all of their energy needs aerobically (from oxygen) – instead of relying on anaerobic breathing, which depletes the carbohydrate stores in the muscles and leads to faster fatigue."
In addition to VO2, the second key trait is "economy," which means the body needs to use oxygen efficiently, explained Jones.
This needs to be done both internally and through an effective running action.
The third trait, the lactate inflection point, is the percentage of VO2 max a runner can withstand before anaerobic breathing begins.
"When and when this happens, carbohydrates in the muscles are depleted at a high rate, depleting glycogen stores," said Professor Jones.
"At this point – which many marathon runners may know as 'the wall' – the body has to switch to fat burning, which is less efficient and ultimately means the runner is slowing down."
“The runners we examined – 15 of the 16 from East Africa – seem to know intuitively how to run just below their“ critical speed ”, close to the“ lactate inflection point ”but never exceed it.
& # 39; This is particularly challenging because even for elite runners, the turning point drops slightly over the course of a marathon.
Marathon runner Eliud Kipchoge was involved in the surveillance and ran a marathon in just under two hours. Here he was watched by Professor Andrew Jones to find out what it would take to hit the magical marathon mark under two hours
"Nonetheless, we suspect that the best runners in this group, especially Eliud Kipchoge, show remarkable resistance to fatigue."
The tests, conducted in Exeter and the Nike Performance Center in Oregon, USA, were a surprising experience for a group of amateur runners in the UK.
"We tested 11 of the 16 runners at Exeter Arena a few years ago," said Professor Jones.
“There were some local runners there at the time and it was a real eye opener for them when a group of the world's best athletes showed up.
"The elite runners were great – they even joined the local runners and sped up their training."
The results were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
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