Energy Economics of Marathon Runners Compared to 800m Runners

The purpose of this essay is to research and compare the energy economics of marathon runners and 800m runners, both during and after the event. It also looks at the difference in dietary preparation and the effect it has on the athlete’s energy systems. The different training regimes for each event will also be compared and the differences will be observed and interpreted.

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The purpose of this essay is to research and compare the energy economics of marathon runners and 800m runners, both during and after the event. It also looks at the difference in dietary preparation and the effect it has on the athlete’s energy systems. The different training regimes for each event will also be compared and the differences will be observed and interpreted.

The energy systems the human body uses can be broken down into three separate systems; Adenosine Tri-phosphate Phospho-creatine (ATP-PC), Lactic Acid, and Aerobic. The ATP-PC system “is used only for very short durations of up to 10 seconds. The ATP-PC system neither uses oxygen nor produces lactic acid if oxygen is unavailable and is thus said to be alactic anaerobic. This is the primary system behind very short, powerful movements like a golf swing or a 100 m sprint.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_systems#ATP-PC_System). In both events, ATP-PC system will be used at several times, even during a non explosive race such as a marathon, where it will be used during the first and last couple of hundred meters, as well as when the athlete may choose to accelerate past another competitor.  During the 800m race, ATP-PC is mostly all used during the first 10-15 seconds of a race and in the last 100m, when high energy demands peak.

The second energy system is the lactic acid (also called glycolytic or anaerobic) system which is capable of “releasing energy to resynthesise ATP without the involvement of oxygen and is called anaerobic glycolysis.” (http://www.brianmac.co.uk/lactic.htm). The lactic acid system generally only lasts for between 2 to 5 minutes, after which the aerobic energy system is used. Despite popular belief, lactic acid is not responsible for both the extreme burn in your muscles while exercising intensely or the soreness that comes after it, instead lactate is resynthesised in the liver, and forms glucose which your body uses as energy.  The burn athletes feel comes from the by-products of this reaction, which include carbon dioxide. Lactic acid plays a major role in 800m running events as lactic acid starts to build when an athlete hits 85-90% of their maximum heart rate, and will continue to build until the athlete finishes the race “For the women, the lactic acid energy contributions for the 400 m, 800 m and 1500 m averaged 62%, 33% and 17%, respectively. For the men, the lactic acid contributions averaged 63%, 39% and 20%, respectively” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10404496). Marathon runners on the other hand will generally only use the lactic acid system at the end of a race when they might speed up as most will run under the anaerobic threshold (the time when lactic starts to build).

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