Purpose: Despite the increasing popularity of marathon running, there are no data on the responses of stroke volume (SV) and cardiac output (CO) to exercise in this context. We sought to establish whether marathon performance is associated with the ability to sustain high fractional use of maximal SV and CO (i.e, cardiac endurance) and/or CO, per meter (i.e., cardiac cost).
Methods: We measured the SV, heart rate (HR), CO, and running speed of 14 recreational runners in an incremental, maximal laboratory test and then during a real marathon race (mean performance: 3 hr 30 min ± 45 min).
Results: Our data revealed that HR, SV and CO were all in a high but submaximal steady state during the marathon (87.0 ± 1.6%, 77.2 ± 2.6%, and 68.7 ± 2.8% of maximal values, respectively). Marathon performance was inversely correlated with an upward drift in the CO/speed ratio (mL of CO × m(-1)) (r = -0.65, P < 0.01) and positively correlated with the runner's ability to complete the race at a high percentage of the speed at maximal SV (r = 0.83, P < 0.0002).
Conclusion: Our results showed that marathon performance is inversely correlated with cardiac cost and positively correlated with cardiac endurance. The CO response could be a benchmark for race performance in recreational marathon runners.