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Thread: Can a sprinter be an endurance runner too? page

  1. #1
    CaveWeirdo's Avatar
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    Can a sprinter be an endurance runner too?

    Amateur runners seem to have all types of body shape, and even among the most hardcore of ultra-marathoners, there is still plenty of variety. Obviously some endurance runners can sprint like the clappers when they need to. I've seen Olympic middle distance runners sprint the last 200 meters of a 10k race at a speed that a dedicated sprinter would be pretty happy with!

    But you don't see many super-muscly people running marathons. I know there are some curvy/tall/ripped elite runners out there, but I haven't seen any that looked like a sprinter. Even though the difference in weight between elite sprinters and marathoners is not that much (I did a straw poll of recent top female athletes, the difference was only ~10lbs), I'm wondering whether that small weight difference would make a big difference to race times?

    As I can barely run for 100m meters, never mind sprint, I speak from the perspective of someone just starting out on the road to becoming a runner. I find myself inevitably wondering what my runs will be like in the future and what my physique will look like, and it's hard to visualise, given that at the moment I am closer to resembling a hippopotamus than a gazelle...

    I enjoyed longer distances when I was younger and fitter, and I would love to be able to enter middle and long distance races, but I would prefer the impressive bulk of a sprinter, and like the thought of being able to out-sprint my friends in my 'play' sessions too.

    I accept that bulking up would take time, especially since I am a Grokette, but would this time be wasted if I also wish to run endurance races? Do big muscles really shrivel up if you start running marathons? Can a runner realistically maintain both skills? Or am I expecting too much?
    Last edited by CaveWeirdo; 05-09-2012 at 03:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Dr. Bork Bork's Avatar
    Dr. Bork Bork is offline Senior Member
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    I like to think I have a mean little sprint kick. It only lasts a couple hundred yards, but I've got it.

    I'm training for a marathon.

    So I say... YES! Sprinters can be endurance runners. I think everyone can be an endurance runner... but not everybody has that mean little sprint kick.

    How's this for beefy little endurance runner? (doin ma sprint kick, mmm yeah)
    --Trish (Bork)
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    CaveWeirdo's Avatar
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    Dr Bork Bork, that's awesome! I love your victory face!


    Also I just had a thought: A sprinter doing a race has huge muscles pumped with glycogen. Whereas a long distance runner doing his final 100m of a very long race, would surely have used the glycogen in his muscles and, depending on the distance, his liver will be providing the energy, or he will be metabolising adipose fat and muscle tissue. Given that the sprinter is only a second or two faster over his 100m than the endurance runner's sprint, despite the difference in fuel source, the reason for the bulk must simply be a case of maximising muscle glycogen storage to prevent a change-over during the sprint??

    In that case, is there a formula for working out the optimum running weight for a sprinter? So that one can work out the minimum amount of extra muscle needed without having an unnecessary excess? Or have I got this all wrong and the bulk is just a natural sign that the sprinter happens to have more fast-twitch muscle fibers?
    Last edited by CaveWeirdo; 05-09-2012 at 04:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Dr. Bork Bork's Avatar
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    All I know is that the longer I did HIIT cardio, the more cut and bulky my thighs got. Sure I leaned out, but I'm built like a Quarter Horse (if you know what I mean). I don't think I'll ever look sleek like a Thoroughbred/long distance runner.
    Dunno if that answers your question at all.
    --Trish (Bork)
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  5. #5
    CaveWeirdo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Bork Bork View Post
    I'm built like a Quarter Horse (if you know what I mean).
    Yes I know what you mean. I have that thing going on too. 'Built like a brick shithouse', as they say. The last time I was light enough to run fast I played college rugby, and was one of the heaviest players on the team (~190 lbs, 5'8")

    I'm hoping that after losing significant body fat I can achieve a sprinter's build. I don't think I would be too pleased to lose lots of body fat only to find out my natural lean look is of a weakling that you could knock down with a feather. *crosses fingers*

  6. #6
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    I'm built more like a sprinter, at 6'2 and 220+lbs, an ex rugby player and rower. I *can* run distances too, but hate it - I'm so big I struggle to lose heat so I sweat like crazy and really suffer after 2 hours or so. It took me a long time to realise that the problem was heat loss, I spotted that my best runs were on cold, wet days when I was being cooled by the rain. The summer is torture for me, I limit myself to about 90 minutes, and even then I quite often carry a camelback.

    I can do much further on a bike, I guess I'm not working quite so hard, it's easier to drink as I go along and I get a nice cooling breeze

    this is me at the end of a half iron man tri a couple of years ago, having suffered like a dog on the run (this is my 'sprint finish'!!)


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    Just because you do distance running doesn't mean you'll end up with the physique of a distance runner. World class distance runners are that way because they tend to be small in stature and gravitate to the sport, the same is true for swimmers and sprinters. The younger you are the more likely it is that you'll get thinner but you'd have to really tack on the mileage and intensity. I was 5'11", 150 lbs and my fittest as a distance runner, but I was logging anywhere from 70 - 100 miles per week depending on what I was training for. That is non sustainable over time, as I got older and was still doing 30 - 40 miles per week my weight increased. I eventually reached 220 lbs but was still running. What didn't change was my diet. Now I'm 190 lbs, and mixing sprints and tempo runs with easy days of walking or light jogging and healthier then I was when I was doing 70 miles a week. Stick with healthy, don't trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

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    I want to say that one of the guys who did really well in last year's Boston Marathon was a middle-distance runner (800m, I think). No one expected him to do very well, and then he placed top ten or something... I'll have to look it up.

    *EDIT* I looked it up and I can't find it. Sorry.
    Last edited by jfreaksho; 05-13-2012 at 12:32 PM.

  9. #9
    ciep's Avatar
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    Can someone be competitive at the elite level in both the 100m and the the marathon? No. The physiological qualities one needs to develop in order to be elite in either event are very different and in certain ways opposed to one another.

    But can someone be both a pretty fast sprinter and a pretty good marathoner? Absolutely. Thousands of people achieve this.

    Essentially, if you really prioritize one of the two, then it will come at the expense of the other -- but only after you're already performing at a pretty high level in both.

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