Decoupling of internal and external workload during a marathon: An analysis of durability in 82,303 recreational runner

Barry Smyth, Ed Maunder, Samuel Meyler, Ben Hunter, Daniel Muniz

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Abstract

Aim: This study characterised the decoupling of internal-to-external workload in marathon running and investigated whether decoupling magnitude and onset could improve predictions of marathon performance.

Methods: The decoupling of internal-to-external workload was calculated in 82,303 marathon runners (13,125 female). Internal workload was determined as a percentage of maximum heart rate, and external workload as speed relative to estimated critical speed (CS). Decoupling magnitude (i.e., decoupling in the 35–40 km segment relative to the 5–10 km segment) was classified as low (< 1.1), moderate (≥ 1.1 but < 1.2) or high (≥ 1.2). Decoupling onset was calculated when decoupling exceeded 1.025.

Results: The overall internal-to-external workload decoupling experienced was 1.16 ± 0.22, first detected 25.2 ± 9.9 km into marathon running. The low decoupling group (34.5% of runners) completed the marathon at a faster relative speed (88 ± 6% CS), had better marathon performance (217.3 ± 33.1 min), and first experienced decoupling later in the marathon (33.4 ± 9.0 km) compared to those in the moderate (32.7% of runners, 86 ± 6% CS, 224.9 ± 31.7 min, and 22.6 ± 7.7 km), and high decoupling groups (32.8% runners, 82 ± 7% CS, 238.5 ± 30.7 min, and 19.1 ± 6.8 km; all p < 0.01). Compared to females, males’ decoupling magnitude was greater (1.17 ± 0.22 vs. 1.12 ± 0.16; p < 0.01) and occurred earlier (25.0 ± 9.8 vs. 26.3 ± 10.6 km; p < 0.01). Marathon performance was associated with the magnitude and onset of decoupling, and when included in marathon performance models utilising CS and the curvature constant, prediction error was reduced from 6.45 to 5.16%.

Conclusion: Durability characteristics, assessed as internal-to-external workload ratio, show considerable inter-individual variability, and both its magnitude and onset are associated with marathon performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2283-2295
Number of pages13
JournalSports Medicine
Volume52
Issue number9
Early online date5 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022

Keywords

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marathon Running
  • Running/physiology
  • Workload

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