Noakes, T. D., Myburgh, K. H., & Schall, R. (1990). Peak treadmill running velocity during VO2max test predicts running performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 8, 35-45.

Marathon runners (N = 20) and ultra-marathoners (N = 23) were tested for VO2max, peak treadmill running velocity, velocity at lactate turnpoint, and VO2 at 16 km/h using an incremental (1 min) treadmill test.

Results. Race times at 10, 21.1, and 42.2 km of the specialist marathoners were faster than those of the ultra-marathoners, however, only the 10 km time differed significantly. Lactate turnpoint occurred at 77.4% of VO2max and at 74.7% of peak treadmill velocity. The average VO2 at 16 km/h was 51.2 ml/kg/min which represented 78.5% of VO2max.

  1. For all distances, performance time in other races was the best predictor of performance (r = .95 to .98).

  2. The best laboratory predictors were: (a) peak treadmill running velocity (r = -.89 to -.94); (b) running velocity at lactate turnpoint (r = -.91 to -.93); and (c) fractional use of VO2max at 16 km/h (r = .86 to .90). The predictive value of the lactate turnpoint measure increased as the distance increased.

  3. The poorest predictors were: VO2max (r = -.55 to -.81) and VO2 at 16 km/h (r = .40 to .45).

Conclusion. There may be no unique physiological characteristics that distinguish elite long-distance (10 km or longer) runners as is often promoted. Other factors determine success in high level sports among exclusive groups of superior athletes.

Implication. Running performance is the best predictor of running capability in elite long-distance runners. Physiological laboratory testing gives less information than does actual performance. Even the fastest speed of running on the treadmill is a better predictor than any physiological measure. This suggests that for at least endurance-dominated sports, actual performances in a variety of performance-specific situations will give more useful information than that which can be obtained in any physiology laboratory test.

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