Endurance running is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the world, and for good reason. Endurance exercise not only has profound physiological benefits, including improved respiratory system; increase fat oxidation and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes (among many others), but also psychological benefits. Many would argue that the physiological benefits of running are what get people into the exercise initially and the psychological benefits (the endorphin release) are what give you the running bug!
Marathon events are symbolic celebration of running, and most major cities globally host one each year in celebration of the ancient Greek hero Pheidippides who completed the first marathon on record more than 2,500 years ago.
Marathon running is incredibly taxing on the body, it requires huge physiological demands from the respiratory system, cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system. The latter of which is considerably influenced by the efficiency of the two former systems. Lack of oxygen supply reduces the body’s ability to derive muscular energy, leading to the athlete ‘hitting a wall’. The muscles are also impacted by the consequential wear and tear along the way, leading to proteins from the broken down muscle being released into the bloodstream. This impact can be measured by looking at creatine kinase or myoglobin blood serum levels.
These bio-markers are not only a signal of fatigue levels in the body, but if accumulation gets too high it can lead to kidney issues.
The latest research into endurance running has put marathon runners under the microscope to determine if some individuals are predisposed to make better marathon runners than others.
Camilo José Cela University conducted the study in question and analysed 7 genes of study group of 71 marathon runners.
Each of the 7 genes was given a score between 0-2: 0 indicated that the gene was not predisposed to benefit marathon running; 1 meant it partially influenced endurance running and 2 signaled that the gene had a positive influence on marathon running. Creatine kinase and myoglobin blood measurements were also taken before and after the competition.
The results for this study proved to be conclusive, with the higher gene scores being linked with the lowest levels of creatine kinase or myoglobin, evident signs of muscle fatigue post exercise. Suggesting that some individuals are genetically predisposed to be more economical runners than others.