The key difference between sprinter and marathon runner is that a sprinter’s body is prepared for speed and power, whereas a marathon runner’s body is made for long, slow endurance.
Sprinters mainly focus on power and speed and use fast-twitch muscles. Marathon runners focus on stamina and endurance and use slow-twitch muscles. Depending on these requirements, their training exercises also differ.
Who is a Sprinter?
A sprinter is a short distance runner. A sprinter is trained for stamina, explosive power and agility. Sprinters are muscular and have little requirement for maximal oxygen consumption since their runs finish fast. They have fast-twitch muscle fibres. These muscles create fast contractions that fatigue quickly.
Sprinters are usually trained with both free weights and bodyweight plyometric exercises, which are compound movements that create speed and power. Therefore, their training focuses on improving fast-twitch muscle fibres and phosphagen systems by developing power, speed and strength. They usually use the phosphagen system, which is generally used in high-powered activities that lasts for less than 10 seconds. Moreover, they use a glycolytic system in the middle-distance sprints such as the 400 meters. This glycolytic system is used in moderate intensities that usually lasts for several minutes.
The heart rate of a sprinter during high intensity can be 80%-90% of maximum. This can be maintained only for a short period. Sprinters must also practice their speed for their reaction to the starting gun since they should have a better start to remain competitive in the race; even a fraction of a second is very important in these races. There are various exercises for this, such as jumping to and from a rope ladder by listening to the coach’s signal. There are also practices to improve stride lengths, body posture and arm movements.
During the race, a sprinter needs to be as tall as possible as it compromises their balance. Generally, sprinters train their upper body to balance out with the lower body. Sprinters’ nutrition intake usually depends on their bodies, the type of food, and the training patterns that their bodies respond to. On the day of the race, the nutritions taken should be able to reduce gastrointestinal distress and dehydration, and maximize muscle function. Sprinters generally need to take more proteins; therefore, food like eggs, meat, fish, beans, nuts and dairy products are best for them.
Who is a Marathon Runner?
A marathon runner is a long-distance runner. A marathon runner is trained for endurance, such as the time their muscles can tolerate aerobic energy production (which is also called their lactate threshold). The best way to develop this is to run at their current threshold for about an hour. It helps the body to adapt to having higher lactate levels in the blood and muscles. The lactate threshold gets increased as the body gets accustomed to the increased production of lactic acid. They train their slow-twitch fibres to provide them with more energy, which will usually last for about 42km. Slow-twitch muscles are slow oxidative fibres that create slow muscle contractions, and they are highly resistant to fatigue.
Marathon runners often use the oxidative system, which is usually used for low-intensity exercises that last for several minutes, and the glycolytic system, which is used for activities with a moderate intensity that lasts for several minutes for the rest. The proportion is 95%-5%. Their goal is to develop stamina, muscular endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness. Their heart rates are generally between 60-70% maximum. However, with experienced marathon runners, this can be between 70-80% maximum.
Marathon runners need to save energy until they finish the race. For this, there are different drills like long intervals, incorporating hills, and exhaustive distances. Following these methods help their bodies to learn how to save energy by using the most efficient combination of muscle fibres in a race. Runners also train to make adjustments if they run out of energy. Marathon runners need more carbohydrates and fats in their diets, especially 36-48 hours before the race. This helps them to gain more energy. In addition, taking a well-balanced diet is important for them, which includes whole grain, vegetables, fruits and lean protein.
What is the Difference Between Sprinter and Marathon Runner?
A sprinter is a short distance runner, while a marathon runner is a long-distance runner. The key difference between sprinter and marathon runner is that a sprinter’s body is prepared for speed and power while a marathon runner’s body is trained for long, slow endurance.
The following infographic lists the differences between sprinter and marathon runner in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Sprinter vs Marathon Runner
A sprinter finishes the race quickly since they are short distance competitions, which are 400 metres or less. They should focus on technique. Speed is very important in such races. A marathon runner focuses on endurance since they should retain their energy for a longer time. They should also practice stamina, and cardiorespiratory fitness since their races are about 42 kilometres in distance. Thus, this is the key difference between sprinters and marathon runner.
1.“Sprint (Running).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Aug. 2021.
1. “Running, extra, mile, man, yellow, tank, top, black” (CC0) via Piqsels
2. “Race Marathon Runner Gray Run Running Gray Running” (CC0) via Max Pixel