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Are having long legs advantageous for running? While walking faster to catch up with a friend with longer legs is not uncommon, does it mean the same when it comes to running? What are some real-world cases of long legs in races and marathons? What does science have to say about the relationship between long legs and running ability? Read on to get the answer.
Real-World Cases: Long Legs in Marathons and Sprints
Are you considered long-legged? For an easy calculation, measure your height from the top of your head to your hip bone, then measure your height from the hip bone down to the bottom of your feet. A person who is balanced would have equal measurements for both parts. If your head to hip bone measurement is longer, you have short legs. If your hip bone to feet measurement is longer, you have long legs.
What are some cases of long-legged runners outperforming their peers in long-distance runs? A quick look at any international marathon or even popular local marathons should give you some good examples fairly easily. Kenyans have secured their place as one of the best long-distance runners. One such research described the physical differences of Kenyans as “bird-like” with longer legs, slender limbs and shorter torsos. This creates efficiency in long-distance runs.
On the other hand, what does it really mean to have long legs in sprinting? When looking at the men’s 100m-dash category, you will see that more than two-thirds of world-record holders are of West-African descent. Studies have theorised that this is because West Africans have longer limbs with smaller circumferences, leading to a high leg to torso length ratio which creates an advantage in sub-10 second races.
What Science Says
What does science have to say about the relationship between long legs and running? The formula for running speed is Stride Length x Stride Frequency.
Longer legs add to the equation by giving you a higher stride length, or the ability to open up your legs wider when running. This is also known to be a critical factor that determines whether a sprinter is able to run under 10 seconds in a 100m race.
However, having high stride length does not necessarily equate to higher stride frequency, which basically means how fast you move your legs. Personal training aside, that answer would depend on the exact composition of your legs. According to this article, athletes who run fast possess physical characteristics such as long lower legs, high calves and a long achilles tendon.
In particular, having a longer Achilles tendon lends advantage for reactive strength, storing and releasing more elastic energy and making running more effective and efficient in the process. This is similar to how kangaroos are able to bounce effortlessly.
So what does this all really mean? In a nutshell, both real-world cases and scientific studies point toward the fact that longer legs really do give you an advantage in running. However, if we zoom down into further details, this has to be accompanied with good training. Specific physical characteristics such as longer lower legs and higher calves do matter as well, instead of simply just having long legs.
Since there is really nothing you can do to change your genetic body structure be it short legged or long legged, the key to all change still lies in the effectiveness of the training that you do. So keep training!
While walking faster to catch up with a friend with longer legs is not uncommon, does it mean the same when it comes to running?
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