Skip to main content
Log in

Physiological Regulation of Marathon Performance

  • Conference Paper
  • Published:
Sports Medicine Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Running a marathon at the fastest speed possible appears to be regulated by the rate of aerobic metabolism (i.e. marathon oxygen uptake) of a limited amount of carbohydrate energy (i.e. muscle glycogen and blood glucose) and the velocity that can be maintained without developing hyperthermia. According to a model proposed by Joyner in 1991, people possess the physiological ability to run a marathon in ≈1:58:00. This could be accomplished if the current world record pace for the ‘half-marathon’ is maintained for the entire marathon. The ultimate limit to marathon performance might be dictated by the limits of running economy and a recruitment of the running musculature with a pattern that minimises fatigue, possibly by spreading the work over many motor neuron.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  1. Costill DL. What research tells the coach about distance running. Washington, DC: American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, 1968

    Google Scholar 

  2. Farrell PA, Wilmore JH, Coyle EF, et al. Plasma lactate acconnotation and distance running performance. Med Sci Sports 1979; 11: 33844

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bergstrom I, Hermansen L, Hultman E, et al. Diet, muscle glycogen and physical performance. Acta Physiol Scand 1967; 71: 140–50

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Levine SA, Gordon B, Derick CL. Some changes in the chomical constituents of the blood following a marathon race. J Am Med Assoc 1924; 82 (22): 1778–9

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Milvy P, editor. The marathon: physiological, medical, epidomiological, and psychological studies. Ann N Y Acad Sci 1977; 301:1–1090

    Google Scholar 

  6. Ahlborg G, Felig P. Lactate and glucose exchange across the forearm, legs and splanchnic bed during and after prolonged leg exercise. J Clin Invest 1982; 69: 45–54

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Phillips SM, Green HJ, Tarnopolsky MA, et al. Effects of training duration on substrate turnover and oxidation during exercise. J Appl Physiol 1996; 81 (5): 2182–91

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, et al. Substrate metabolism during different exercise intensities in endurance-trained women. J APIA Physiol 2000; 88: 1707–14

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hopper MK, et al. Determinants of endurance in well-trained cyclists. J Appl Physiol 1988; 64: 2622–30

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Coyle E. Fluid andfuel intake during exercise. J Sport Sci 2005; 22: 39–55

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Coyle EF. Integration of the physiological factors determining endurance performance ability. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 1995; 23: 25–63

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Gonzalez-Alonso J, Teller C, Andersen SL, et al. Influence of body temperature on the development of fatigue during prolonged exercise in the heat. J Appl Physiol 1999; 86: 1032–9

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Sawka MN, Young A. Physiological systems and their responses to conditions of heat and cold. In: Tipton CM, editor. American College of Sports Medicine’s Advanced exercise physiology. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott William and Wiltons, 2006: 535–63

    Google Scholar 

  14. Webb P, Annis J, Troutman SJ. Human calorimetry with a water-cooled garment. J Appl Physiol 1972; 32: 412–9

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Coyle EF, Gonzalez-Alonso J. Cardiovascular drift during prolonged exercise: new perspectives. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2001; 29: 88–92

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Jones AM. A five year physiological case study of an Olympic runner. Br J Sports Med 1998; 32: 39–43

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Jones AM. The physiology of the world record holder for the women’s marathon. Intern J Sports Sci Coaching 2006; 1 (2): 101–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Conley DL, Krahenbuhl GS, Burkett LN, et al. Following Steve Scott: physiological changes accompanying training. Phys Sportsmed 1984; 12: 103–6

    Google Scholar 

  19. Coyle EF. Improved muscular efficiency displayed as `Tour de France’ champion matures. J Appl Physiol 2005; 98: 2191–6

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Joyner MJ. Modeling optimal marathon performance on the basis of physiological factors. J Appl Physiol 1991; 71: 683–7

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Edward F. Coyle is a consultant to the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and contracted research Quaker Oats-Gatorade and POMS Wonderful.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edward F. Coyle.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Coyle, E.F. Physiological Regulation of Marathon Performance. Sports Med 37, 306–311 (2007). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737040-00009

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737040-00009

Keywords

Navigation