Training and bioenergetic characteristics in elite male and female Kenyan runners

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2003 Feb;35(2):297-304; discussion 305-6. doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000053556.59992.A9.


Purpose: This study compares the training characteristics and the physical profiles of top-class male and female Kenyan long-distance runners.

Method: The subjects were 20 elite Kenyan runners: 13 men (10-km performance time: 10-km performance time of 28 min, 36 s +/- 18 s) and 7 women (32 min, 32 s +/- 65 s). The male runners were separated into high-speed training runners (HST: N = 6) and low-speed training runners (LST: N = 7) depending on whether they train at speeds equal or higher than those associated with the maximal oxygen uptake (vVO2max ). All but one woman were high-speed training runners (female HST: N = 6). Subjects performed an incremental test on a 400-m track to determine VO2max, vVO2max, and the velocity at the lactate threshold (vLT).

Results: Within each gender among the HST group, 10-km performance time was inversely correlated with vVO2max (rho = -0.86, P = 0.05, and rho = -0.95, P = 0.03, for men and women, respectively). HST male runners had a higher VO2max, a lower (but not significantly) fraction of vVO2max (FVO2max ) at the lactate threshold, and a higher energy cost of running (ECR). Among men, the weekly training distance at vVO2max explained 59% of the variance of vVO2max, and vVO2max explained 52% of the variance of 10-km performance time. Kenyan women had a high VO2max and FVO2max at vLT that was lower than their male HST counterparts. ECR was not significantly different between genders.

Conclusion: The velocity at the VO2max is the main factor predicting the variance of the 10-km performance both in men and women, and high-intensity training contributes to this higher VO2max among men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Sex Factors


  • Lactic Acid