For a few years, running has been fashionable. But there is a great difference between the physical demands of running a few kilometers and doing a marathon. Now researchers have concluded that genetics plays an essential role in success when completing this long distance.
The genetics of marathon runners
Specialists focussed on seven genes related to muscle function in 71 experienced marathon runners, who underwent blood tests before and after the competition and measurements of the power of the vertical jump and muscle perception.
Every gene was assigned a score, based on previous studies, where 0 indicated that the polymorphism of this gene did not create a muscular advantage for running a marathon, 1 meant a standard level and 2 indicated that the polymorphism of the gene conferred positive properties for bearing this effort through muscles.
As such, runners with a high score -the maximum was 14 points- had good muscle genetics to bear the muscle demands of the marathon, while a low score indicated the opposite.
The results were conclusive: runners with a higher genetic score had lower levels of creatine kinase and myoglobin in their blood, that is, less damage to muscle fibres, compared to marathon runners with a less favourable score.
This research opens the way for the use of genetics in training. "In the near future, marathon runners may be able to measure their genetic profile to know how prepared they are for competing in a marathon and in other resistance tests," highlighted Del Coso.
But this is not an excuse to avoid competing in a marathon. Having an unfavourable genetic profile only implies that these runners "will have to do specific training to prepare their muscles for facing these demanding conditions," concluded the researcher.