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J Sports Sci. 1985 Summer;3(2):115-26.

Anthropometric and training characteristics of female marathon runners as determinants of distance running performance.


The purpose of this study was to determine how female marathon runners of varying standards differed in body composition and physique and in their training regimes, and secondly to develop predictors of distance running performance from the anthropometric and training variables. Female marathon runners (n = 36), all participants in a national 10 mile (16 km) road racing championship, were divided into three groups according to their best time for the 26.2 mile race. They were assessed for body composition and somatotype using anthropometric techniques and completed a questionnaire about their current training for the marathon. No difference was found between the groups of distance runners when measured for height, bone widths and circumferences. The three groups were found to have similar body weights of approximately 53 kg, a value which is much lower than the average for sedentary women, but which compares favourably with those from previous studies of female long distance runners. While all the runners had a lower per cent fat, as measured from skinfold thicknesses, than sedentary women, the elite runners were seen to have significantly lower values (P less than 0.05) than the other two groups. The difference in body fat was particularly reflected in the triceps skinfold value. There was also a tendency for the elite runners to be more ectomorphic and less endomorphic than the others. The better runners were seen, on the whole, to have been running longer, and to have more strenuous regimes, both in terms of intensity of training and distance run per week. Multiple regression and discriminant function analyses indicated that the number of training sessions per week and the number of years training were the best predictors of competitive performance at both 10 mile and marathon distances. They also indicated that a female long distance runner with a slim physique high in ectomorphy has the greatest potential for success.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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