Tag Archives: Marathon

To run a marathon, you don’t need superhuman abilities — you need efficiency and resilience

It was a cold misty morning in Vienna when Eliud Kipchoge made history. The Kenyan runner finished an unofficial marathon in a once-inconceivable time: 1 hour 59 minutes and 40 seconds for the 26.2 miles (42.6 kilometers).

You’d be excused for thinking that Kipchoge is some form of superhuman performer. For most of us, even finishing a marathon seems like a far-fetched dream. But while this under-two-hour performance is groundbreaking, you don’t really need superhuman abilities to finish a marathon in good time, a new study has shown.

Credit Flickr Hans Splinter

“Athletics is not so much about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind,” Kipchoge once said, and he was pretty on point. The key to a good marathon is not in the legs — it’s in the lungs.

Whenever we exercise or run, we start to breathe more heavily. That’s because our body requires more oxygen to power our muscles; the more we intensify our workout, the more heavily we breathe. There’s a limit to this: it’s called VO2 max, or the maximum volume of oxygen you can use. This VO2 max also isn’t fixed in time, you can improve it by being active and constantly pushing your limits, but it can also drop if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

A study carried out by University of Exeter researchers in collaboration with Nike analyzed the VO2 max and other physiological requirements that are necessary to run a two-hour marathon — but the findings apply to more than just elite athletes, they also apply to regular people.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the outdoor running test of 16 athletes in the selection stage of Breaking2, a project by Nike to break the two-hour barrier of a marathon, accomplished by Kipchoge in 2019. They found that a 59kg runner would need to take in about four liters of oxygen per minute to maintain a two-hour marathon pace (21.1 km/h).

At marathon pace, elite runners can take in oxygen twice as fast as a “normal” person of the same age and weight, even when sprinting, according to VO2 measurements. Still, this difference wasn’t as striking as high as researchers initially expected. Runners actually need to have several characteristics for a good marathon performance, it’s not just the VO2 max.

Another important parameter is the so-called “lactate threshold”: the intensity after which lactic acid starts to quickly accumulate (and which consequently makes you more fatigued). The lactate threshold is often defined as 85% of maximum heart rate, and elite athletes seem to have developed a sense navigating under this threshold.

Runners with better performances also need a good running “economy”. This means that the body must use oxygen efficiently, both internally and through effective running action. Having all these features (VO2 max, lactate threshold, economy) is basically what you need to achieve a good performance in any given race.

“The runners we studied – 15 of the 16 from East Africa – seem to know intuitively how to run just below their ‘critical speed’, close to the ‘lactate turn point’ but never exceeding it,” Professor Andrew Jones, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “This is especially challenging because – even for elite runners – the turn point drops slightly over the course of a marathon.”

So in a sense, Kipchoge was right: it’s not really about the legs. You need a good heart, good lungs, and a healthy mindset to go through the effort efficiently. Whether or not you’re planning on running a marathon anytime soon, that’s a lesson worth remembering.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Training for a marathon can reverse vascular age by as much as four years

Credit: Pixabay.

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is running a marathon. However, some might find training for one to be more challenging than they bargained for. Here’s something to keep you on track for your 2020 fitness goals — according to a new study published today, new marathon runners experience reduced blood pressure and less stiff arteries, equivalent to a 4-year reduction in vascular age.

“As clinicians are meeting with patients in the new year, making a goal-oriented exercise training recommendation–such as signing up for a marathon or fun-run–may be a good motivator for our patients to keep active,” said senior author Charlotte Manisty of the Institute of Cardiovascular Science at University College London and Barts Heart Centre in London. “Our study highlights the importance of lifestyle modifications to slow the risks associated with aging, especially as it appears to never be too late as evidenced by our older, slower runners.”

Running your body backward in time

As we age, it is normal for our arteries to stiffen. As a consequence, this is closely associated with the progression of cardiovascular diseases, which represent the leading cause of death worldwide.

Blood vessels that become thicker and stiffer with age are related to changes in the connective tissue of the blood vessel wall. This makes blood pressure higher and makes the heart work harder. In time, this can lead to cardiovascular and kidney diseases, and even dementia.

However, these changes are reversible. Medication, for instance, can reduce arterial stiffness — but only in patients with established heart disease. For individuals who aren’t diagnosed with high blood pressure, intense cardiovascular activity might do the job.

Charlotte Manisty and colleagues at the University College London and Barts Heart Centre in London studied what happened to arterial stiffening in a group of 138 healthy participants who started training for their first marathon. The goal was to investigate whether age-related aortic stiffening could be reversed.

The researchers examined the eager but inexperienced participants before training and after completing the London Marathon between 2016 and 2017.

All participants followed the “Beginner’s Training Plan” provided by the marathon’s organization, which recommends going on three runs per week that become increasingly difficult over a 17-week period. Training schedules varied from six to 13 miles per week.

By the end of the marathon, the participants experienced a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of 4 and 3 mmHg, respectively. The marathon training also reduced the aortic stiffness in the distal aorta by 9% — the equivalent of an almost four-year reduction in aortic age. The greatest benefits were derived by older participants and males who ran slower marathon times.

“Our study shows it is possible to reverse the consequences of aging on our blood vessels with real-world exercise in just six months. These benefits were observed in overall healthy individuals across a broad age range and their marathon times are suggestive of achievable exercise training in novice participants,” Manisty said.

The findings appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

British Astronaut runs London Marathon from space

British astronaut Tim Peake ran the London Marathon on a treadmill aboard the International Space Station. He became the first man and second person to run a marathon in orbit after US astronaut Sunita Williams ran the Boston Marathon on the ISS in 2007.

Tim Peake running the London Marathon aboard the ISS, as shown by the European Space Agency.

Every year, thousands of people gather in London to participate in one of the world’s most popular running events. The marathon is run over a largely flat course around the River Thames, and spans 42.195 kilometres (26 miles and 385 yards). This setting was unavailable for Tim Peake, so he had to settle for a treadmill onboard the International Space Station. He joined marathoners from 400 km above wearing weights on his body to counter the zero gravity conditions. Before the race, Peake twitted:

He finished the marathon in three hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds, according to estimated times posted on the website of the European Space Agency. Peake trained specifically for the marathon for weeks and used an iPad showing a moving image of the run so he could feel more in the race.

While running in orbit, Peake was joined by two team members on the ground who were running dressed in replica Russian space suits.

This is Tomatan, and he will power you through a marathon — with tomatoes

Ever felt like there was something missing while you go for a jog? Like an unsatisfied yearning, a hungering left unanswered?

If you did, you’re not alone. Japanese vegetable juice company Kagome thinks they have the answer in the shape of a wearable robot that feeds you tomatoes while you run. Weighing in at 18 pounds / 8kg, Tomatan can be worn as a tomato-headed-backpack.

At the flip of a switch Tomatan will grab a tomato with its metal arms then swing them over your head and feed the juicy treat to you. Japan-based artistic studios Maywa Denki, well known for their unusual musical instruments and other devices, designed the robot — and an inexplicably large amount of the berries were involved in the process.

“We used about 100 tomatoes to complete this machine,” said Novmichi Tosa, one of the founders of Meiwa Denki. “We focused mostly on its visual design.”

Now, I really like Tomatan. It looks awesome and seems like a great conversation starter with the mademoiselles. But there is one thing that’s still beyond my grasp…Why? Why would anyone want to bite into a tomato while he’s running?

Awesome? Undoubtedly. Useful? Well, according to Kagome, which claims to be Japan’s largest supplier of ketchup and tomato juice, people taking part in the Tokyo marathon really need this.

“Tomatoes have lots of nutrition that combats fatigue,” said Kagome employee Shigenori Suzuki.

Suzuki intends to wear Tomatan on Saturday 21st, when he will be representing Kagome in the Tokyo Marathon. During the 5km long fun run, Tosa will be running beside him with tools just in case the robot needs fixing or Suzuki encounters a problem.

Then on Sunday 22 February during the full Tokyo Marathon, a professional runner from Kagome will take part using a lighter version of the tomato robot known as Petit-Tomatan.

Petit-Tomatan weighs just 3kg and features a mini tomato holster that is worn on the back.
Image via klepa.ru

As this robot is much smaller, the runner will need to hold a delivery tube up to their mouth through which the tomatoes will be delivered. Petit-Tomatan also features a timer so the runner isn’t fed too many tomatoes in one go.