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Physiological Regulation of Marathon Performance

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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.

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

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Correspondence to Edward F. Coyle.

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Coyle, E.F. Physiological Regulation of Marathon Performance. Sports Med 37, 306–311 (2007).

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