Study shows strength important at longer distances

author : Team BT
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Difference between marathon and half-marathon extreme

A study with a very small sample size, which was published in Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness and reported on in the New York Times  this fall, showed dramatic differences in the wear and damage to the bodies of marathon runners compared to half marathon runners.

The studies took samples and observed fitness tests (vertical leap) for amateur runners competing in a half marathon and a marathon the same day. The runners were tested the day before the race, the morning of, and immediately afterward. They also wore monitors to track perspiration rates.

The results of the study showed neither the marathon nor half marathon participants were dehydrated at the finish. But the marathoners had a great deal more muscle damage, despite having trained longer and with more mileage than the half marathoners.

The study concluded that the marathon runners would benefit from weight training and strength conditioning to help prepare the muscles for the more rigorous demands of the marathon.

As an experienced (but not fast) marathoner, I would argue the marathon runners likely trained longer distances, but did not train twice as much as a half marathon runners. Most training plans try to avoid destruction and injury by asking marathoners to run enough to ready their bodies and minds, but not so much that they can't recover from the workouts to have a strong race. A half marathon training program may include several runs of 13 miles or longer, whereas hardly any marathon training plans ask the runner to go farther than 24 miles in training.

Nevertheless, the recommendation of the researchers to incorporate strength training when trying for longer races seems warranted. Many of the overuse injuries we see here at BeginnerTriathlete result from weakness in the core or glutes, or other imbalances that can be corrected with strength training.


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date: December 31, 2017

Team BT