Mooses, M., Jurimae, J., Haile, D., & Pitsiladis, Y. (2013). Maximal aerobic exercise capacity and running economy of elite Kenyan middle- and long-distance runners compared with European runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 45(5), Supplement abstract number 1754.

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This study assessed VO2max and running economy on a treadmill in elite Kenyan middle-distance (N = 13) and long-distance runners (N = 19) in comparison to European middle-distance (N = 20) and long-distance runners (N = 23). Testing for Kenyan athletes was conducted in Eldoret, Kenya (altitude 2,200 m) while European athletes were tested in Tartu, Estonia (altitude 30 m). Kenyan runners were also tested on an outdoor running track.

VO2max measured on the track and on the treadmill were similar in Kenyan middle-distance and long-distance runners. Despite similar VO2max, a superior running economy at 16 km/h was found in the Kenyan long-distance runners compared to Kenyan middle-distance runners both on the running track and treadmill. Neither running economy nor VO2max were different in European middle-distance and long-distance runners. VO2max and running economy of Kenyan long-distance runners assessed at altitude were similar to European long-distance runners tested at sea-level. In contrast, the running economy of Kenyan middle-distance runners at altitude was lower and VO2max higher than their European counterparts assessed at sea-level.

Implication. Despite having similar maximal aerobic capacity, it is running economy (i.e., the skill of running efficiently) that separates Kenyan long-distance runners from European runners.

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