Slow and Fast Marathon Runners are the Same

November 26th, 2012 by Phil Weiser Leave a reply »

These runners are the Same at what. When taking steps, or running strides, they are the same. How come? By counting their steps!

Yup! In early February 1972, John ‘Jack’ Falkner, PhD, and I were counting steps at the Las Vegas Marathon. We like many others have found this to be the ‘facts.’

Jack was Keynote Speaker at the First Annual Meeting of the RMC, ACSM. I happened to be one of the three co-founders of this Regional Chapter. We chose to have the meeting on the two days before the Las Vegas Marathon.

More importantly, after the meeting, many of us gathered near the finish line with the spectators.

Jack said something like, “I wonder what we could learn from this marathon!?” After hemming and hawing, we decided to investigate stride length as a function of race speed.

METHOD: We noticed a series of telephones poles on the road across from us that the participants took just before they made a right turn and came straight at us for about 200 meters to the finish line. A pair of poles were selected that were the third and fourth from the turn.

Which of the marathoners should we pick? Our sample were 10 of the leaders, 10 at the beginning of the main pack, 10 near the end of the main pack, and 10 who were jogging to the finish near the last of the participants. Our null hypothesis was that the faster runners would have a faster stride frequency than the middle and end runners.

Data collection chores were split by having Jack get the time the runner took from the third to fourth pole and by having me counts the steps run between the poles.  Doing the calculations seemed  complicated until after the race. Jack and I went to the telephone poles and paced off the distance between them, something like 80 feet. First we divided number of steps by number of seconds, then multiplied by 60 s/min, giving steps per minute.

RESULTS: And all four group had about the SAME value of 182 steps per minute (STP). In each of the groups there were persons with faster and slower STP values; there was overlap.

Very, very interesting! Of course, each of the faster groups averaged longer strides.

CONCLUSION: Overall, with similar STP, a runner with longer running strides had increased leg power per stride, and this runner had faster speed.

NEXT WEEK: Is there a relationship between running speed and brain power?

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