Long distance running, also known as endurance running is a mode of continuous running over distances of at least 3 kilometers. Long distance running is a highly aerobic activity which requires a lot of stamina and mental strength. Long distance running is one of the main events at the Olympics. At the Olympics, runners take on various distances from 2 km to around 10 km and more.
Ideal body type (somatotypes) for long distance runners
There are three types of bodies also known as somatotypes that are ideal for runners. They are:
Ectomorphs are a type of body type that is most resistant to weight and muscle gain. People with this type of body tend to have a faster metabolic rate. They also have little body fat that you can observe and have light muscles. Additionally, people with this body type have a small body frame and joints. This is the ideal body type for most long distance runners. This is because long distance runners require less weight so that they can move over long distances.
People with this type of lose and gain weight faster, this means that they can build muscle faster. They also have longer torsos and short limbs. People with mesomorph body types tend to excel in explosive sports like sprinting. Sprinting required power and speed with is exactly what people with this type of body have. Mesomorphs also have higher levels of fast twitch muscles which are beneficial to short and middle distance running. Therefore, this is not the ideal body type for long distance running.
People with this type of body type are usually stockier, have curvier and fuller figures. They have a hard time maintaining their body gat and they also tend to add weight faster. A lot of runners have this type of body. They often require a lot of care and to pay attention to details so that they can maintain and impressive athletic performance. Diet is also an important aspect for runners with this body type.
When it comes to the ideal type of body for running, it is all a matter of training. Humans are not born with a specific body that is prone to running. It takes practice and dedication to build a body that is ideal for either short or long distance races.
World records for long distance running
Below are some of the current holders of world records for long distance running depending on category;
Kenyan athlete, Daniel Komen and Wang Junxia of China hold the world record for the 3000 meter long distance race for men and women respectively.
Ugandan athlete, Joshua Cheptegei and Sifan Hassan holds the record for the
5.000 meter race since October 2020 for men and women respectively.
Rhonex Kipruto, a Kenyan long distance runner and Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya as well hold the record for the 10.000 meter race for men and women respectively.
Characteristics of long distance running
Below are some of the main characteristics of long distance or endurance runners:
Muscle fibers for marathon running
One of the key characteristics of a marathon runner is muscle endurance hence the reason why they are known as endurance runners. Endurance runners have a type of muscle fiber known as the slow twitch muscle fiber.
Some also have the fast type A and type B fast twitch muscle fibers. Successful long distance runners have the slow twitch muscle fiber which affords them the high aerobic capacity and energy production.
These muscle fibers also encourage resistance to issues like fatigue. The most successful runners have high levels of muscle fibers in their body which helps them thrive. This can be attributed to genetics and training.
Lactate threshold is the element that determines when the body starts to accumulate lactic acid as a result of anaerobic respiration. This element affects the race and pace of a runner. The more you run, the more the lactate threshold increases which causes you to run faster.
Most endurance runners have an average lactate threshold of about 75 to 80 percent. Elite performance in long distance races have more than 85 percent worth of lactate threshold. It works by allowing marathoners to use a significant amount of their oxygen uptake and hinders accumulation of lactate which would negative affect running performance.
Endurance runners require adequate carbohydrate storage to meet the energy needs for full and half marathon. The carbohydrates are stored in the body in the form of glycogen.
This means that glycogen is the main fuel for running a full or half marathon. Adequate storage is required because the last thing marathoners want is to run out of fuel in between a race. The body can be trained to utilize fat and optimize the amount of glycogen consumption.
There are several other carbo loading strategies that runners use to optimize their glycogen levels during races.
High VO2 Max
VO2 Max is responsible for the ability of the body to transport and use large amounts of oxygen while working body muscles. It is influenced by the level of aerobic exercise a runner partakes in.
The higher the amount of MO2 max, the more oxygen the body can utilize. This means that high VO2 max is required for optimal racing performance.
The biometrics of a runner significantly influences their running performance. Running is not a natural movement that the body is designed to do. However, simple things like wearing running shoes have a significant impact on the body’s biometrics.
Additionally, the repetitiveness of running leads to overuse. Excellent biometrics causes runners to perform well in their field. A runner needs to have an upright body position and slight lean, relaxed shoulders, head and face and mid footfall and forefoot are all part of excellent biometrics.
Use of arms for rhythm instead of balance and partial hip extension also influences excellent biometrics and in turn, athletic performance.
Some people confuse middle distance running with long distance running. Middle distance runners cover distances between 800 meters and 1500 meters. Some people may say that 3000 meter races fall in the category of middle distance but this is the starting point of long distance running.