Exploring the Anthropometric, Cardiorespiratory, and Haematological Determinants of Marathon Performance
Georgios A. Christou, Efstathios D. Pagourelias, Asterios P. Deligiannis and Evangelia J. Kouidi
We aimed to investigate the main anthropometric, cardiorespiratory and haematological factors that can determine marathon race performance in marathon runners.
Forty-five marathon runners (36 males, age: 42 ± 10 years) were examined during the training period for a marathon race. Assessment of training characteristics, anthropometric measurements, including height, body weight (n = 45) and body fat percentage (BF%) (n = 33), echocardiographic study (n = 45), cardiopulmonary exercise testing using treadmill ergometer (n = 33) and blood test (n = 24) were performed. We evaluated the relationships of these measurements with the personal best marathon race time (MRT) within a time frame of one year before or after the evaluation of each athlete.
The training age regarding long-distance running was 9 ± 7 years. Training volume was 70 (50–175) km/week. MRT was 4:02:53 ± 00:50:20 h. The MRT was positively associated with BF% (r = 0.587, p = 0.001). Among echocardiographic parameters, MRT correlated negatively with right ventricular end-diastolic area (RVEDA)(r = −0.716, p < 0.001). RVEDA was the only independent echocardiographic predictor of MRT. With regard to respiratory parameters, MRT correlated negatively with maximum minute ventilation indexed to body surface area (VEmax/BSA) (r = −0.509, p = 0.003). Among parameters of blood test, MRT correlated negatively with haemoglobin concentration (r = −0.471, p = 0.027) and estimated haemoglobin mass (Hbmass)(r = −0.680, p = 0.002). After performing multivariate linear regression analysis with MRT as dependent variable and BF% (standardised β = 0.501, p = 0.021), RVEDA (standardised β = −0.633, p = 0.003), VEmax/BSA (standardised β = 0.266, p = 0.303) and Hbmass (standardised β = −0.308, p = 0.066) as independent variables, only BF% and RVEDA were significant independent predictors of MRT (adjusted R2 = 0.796, p < 0.001 for the model).
The main physiological determinants of better marathon performance appear to be low BF% and RV enlargement. Upregulation of both maximum minute ventilation during exercise and haemoglobin mass may have a weaker effect to enhance marathon performance.