Running

Can a Sprinter run a Marathon?

By June 15, 2018 April 1st, 2019 No Comments
runners at the starting line

Explore the difference between running a fast sprint and enduring a marathon, with Deepthi Velkur

All running is not equal. Sprinting and marathon running are two very different sports. Sprinters run the 100m, 200m and 400m and long distance running includes the 5km, 10km, half and full marathons. To become a sprinter or a long distance runner, different muscle groups need to be trained in the body and there is a clear distinction between their physical appearances. A sprinter’s body is built for speed and power while the marathoner is built for long and slow endurance. There are other differences that need to be understood to know why a sprinter cannot immediately transition to running marathons and why a marathoner might not enjoy sprinting.

A few of the differences include:

Muscle Structure 

A distance runner has long lean muscles that are elongated which come from longer strides while sprinters have compacted muscles concentration used to increase speed, strength, and power.

A sprinter has highly developed fast twitch muscles, their reflexes are quick and react instantaneously. Neurons fire rapidly throughout the body causing the muscles to contract and relax. This sort of quick exchange of energy can be maintained only for a short distance. It is an anaerobic exercise(large amounts of oxygen) for high-intensity activity and the amount of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) produced in the body increases the lactic acid release which tends to settle in the muscles  as there isn’t enough time to flush it out of the body.

Long distance runner enhances their slow twitch muscles which are key to endurance. They are fired more slowly thus steadily allowing the body to maintain the volume of running. These types of runners are able to have fewer breaks in-between sets, prolonging the development of lactic acid build up. Distance runners also have lactic acid build up, but it takes longer.

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Heart Rate

Heart rate is one of the best indicators of exercise intensity between sprinting and running a marathon. Using high intensity during a sprint, your heart rate can reach up to 80 to 90 percent of your maximum and can be sustained only for a short time frame.

For a marathoner, the heart rate is typically between 60 to 70 percent. Some of the elite or experienced marathon runners, increase the intensity level and sustain it at 70 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate.

Training

Sprinters have a higher heart rate for a short period of time and have bulkier muscles as their body can withstand intensive short workouts though they need a long recovery time in-between sets. A sprinter trying to run 800m from 400m distance will have more of using the constricted muscle groups. If a sprinter trains long and hard enough, they can move up to the middle distance running(800m to 1500m) and eventually long distance races. The body needs to adapt itself to relearn and readjust the muscle movement and motions.

Marathoners focus on developing cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular endurance and stamina for running long distances at a set pace and the body are used to various surfaces so the joints are able to withstand more impact at a constant rate.  A distance runner moving down to a shorter race such as the 1500m will have elongated muscles. These runners will have to work to train their muscles to fire quickly and more rapid.

Running a 10km or a marathon for a sprinter seems like a herculean task to achieve but with their perseverance and dedication, a sprinter can run a marathon.

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Deepthi Velkur

Deepthi Velkur

Deepthi Velkur is a former sprinter who is trying her hand at various sports today. A tennis fanatic, who believes that sleep should never be compromised.