Effects of marathon training on maximal aerobic capacity and running economy in experienced marathon runners


  • Emma J. Lee University of Minnesota, United States http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7033-6632
  • Eric M. Snyder University of Minnesota, United States
  • Christopher J. Lundstrom University of Minnesota, United States




VO2max, Performance, Sub-elite


Maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) and running economy (RE) are markers of running performance. A valid evaluation of RE may occur through allometric scaling of body mass (alloVO2; ml kg-0.66 min-1), energy cost (EC; kcal kg-1 km-1), or percent of VO2max (%VO2max). Little is known about physiological changes that occur in competitive runners over a marathon training cycle. The VDOT score, incorporating VO2max and RE, enables comparison of race performances under different temperature conditions. This study’s purpose was to determine whether VO2max and measures of RE change with marathon training, and to evaluate the relationship between these variables and VDOT. Eight runners (age 34±2 years; marathon <3:00 males, <3:30 females; five females) completed treadmill marathon-intensity-effort (MIE) and VO2max tests at 10 and 1-2 weeks pre-marathon. Body composition (%BF) was determined using hydrostatic weighing. Paired t-tests were used to compare pre- and post-training values. The alpha level for significance was set at 0.05. Body fat decreased from 18.7±1.5% to 16.7±1.6%, VO2max increased from 51.6±2.4 to 63.9±1.1 ml kg-1 min-1, and %VO2max during the MIE decreased from 82.1±2.0 to 72.3±3.2% (p < 0.05 for all). VDOT was significantly associated with alloVO2 (r = -0.779, p = 0.039) but not with VO2max (r = 0.071, p = 0.867). Experienced competitive runners may increase VO2max and decrease %BF after a marathon-specific training cycle. The decrease in %VO2max in a MIE is likely due to a higher VO2max, as other measures of RE did not change significantly. In this cohort, alloVO2 was negatively correlated with race performance.


National Institutes of Health (grant R01 HL208962-05)


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How to Cite

Lee, E. J., Snyder, E. M., & Lundstrom, C. J. (2020). Effects of marathon training on maximal aerobic capacity and running economy in experienced marathon runners. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 15(1), 79–93. https://doi.org/10.14198/jhse.2020.151.08



Performance Analysis of Sport