Are you a runner? Have you heard of marathons such as the San Francisco Marathon or the Boston Marathon? Well, running a marathon requires a unique diet, training regimen, and determination. What most people don’t know is that genetics can play a role as well.
Running a marathon places an enormous stress on the muscles due to the number of impacts and the force of the ground on the legs. Juan Del Coso of the Camilo José Cela University explains that each marathon corresponds to about 30,000 strides for a runner, with each stride causing a force of two to three times the runner’s body weight on the legs. Consequently, this causes deterioration of muscle fibers in the legs and releases proteins, creatine kinase and myoglobin, into the blood. Higher blood concentrations of creatine kinase and myoglobin are correlated with a higher degree of muscle deterioration, which leads to muscle pain and fatigue.
Image source: Robert Daly
The researchers at Camilo José Cela University conducted a study of 71 marathon runners as they performed vertical jumps. They analyzed seven genes using blood tests and rated the genes based on their ability to withstand muscle deterioration. The researchers concluded that runners with higher scores possessed better muscle genetics because they had lower blood concentrations of creatine kinase and myoglobin. This meant that they experience less muscle fatigue and are more likely to withstand the demands of marathon running.
Juan Del Coso argues that genetics can be utilized in marathon training. Thus, runners can learn how genetically fit their bodies are for running. However, Del Coso warns that runners shouldn’t feel disappointed if tests show they exhibit poor muscle genetics. Instead, it means they will have to adjust their training to adequately prepare for marathons. The take-home message is that even though genetics give some runners an advantage over others, everyone should train hard to reach the finish line.
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