A Strong Will, Good Endurance and Proper Structure is the Key to Success in Competitive Running
As marathons and other long distance running events are primarily about endurance, these elite runners must possess excellent cardiorespiratory fitness and efficient technique- subsequently, the popularity of ultramarathons has shot up in recent years, and so too has interest in the science and mechanics of how the body works in these extreme situations. Endurance running requires an extreme level of determination, mental strength, and ability to overcome fatigue, discomfort, the conflicting demands of a busy life, and occasional injury. Sprinting and distance running may rely on many of the same muscle groups, and the concepts of endurance training and sprinting can correlate in many respects, but the specifications of each may also vary widely. This blog will explore the keys to becoming a successful distance runner in competition.
Each muscle in the body is essential, and full fitness requires attention to each of the major muscle groups for stability, alignment of the backbone, and overall health and power. But for trained athletes, part-time exercise lovers and non-athletes alike, there is one organ that is undoubtedly the most essential in the body: the heart. A strong, slow heart provides countless benefits to general health and adds years to the life of its owner. Strong hearts mean less stress on the walls of the arteries, less stress on the kidneys which regulate blood volume, less stress on the liver which provides our cells with nutrients, and less stress on the lungs which provide all the cells in the body with vital oxygen. When the artery walls are flexible and relaxed and the heart is powerful and efficient, almost every organ in the body simply accomplishes more at a lower cost in terms of work, stress, and damage- a strong runner needs a strong heart.
Endurance training is highly necessary for runners and provides countless benefits by helping athletes maintain a strong heart, flexible arteries, and efficient nutrient delivery to every cell in the body. But in order to maximize these benefits and get the most out of an endurance training session, the muscles and bones need to be strong enough to carry the body around and keep it in sustained motion. So even the best endurance program in the world won’t live up to its full potential without a balanced element of strength training- studies have shown that regular endurance training also strengthens parts of the respiratory muscles such as the diaphragm. This leads to an enlargement in lung volume, so that deeper breaths are possible and more oxygen per breath can be taken in.
There is no doubt that long-distance running goes hand in hand with mental fortitude; there are Japanese Buddhist monks who run 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days on the road to enlightenment. And there’s the ‘self-transcendence’ race, where competitors run 3,100 monotonous miles around a single city block. There’s evidence to suggest that those who compete in ultra-endurance events have a higher pain tolerance- it is unclear whether that pain tolerance is the result of pushing yourself and going through all these events or whether it’s something that you have from the start, but it’s unboundedly proven that endurance is an indispensable athletic trait in any competition.
With this being said, one may conclude that factors such as endurance, cardiovascular health, breathing technique, and proper form are all determining aspects of a successful and healthy athlete. It is through maintenance of these aspects that an individual may improve and persevere in whatever competitive endeavor they apply themselves in, and stay healthy while doing it.