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  1. #1
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    What biking distance is similar to running a marathon?

    I've never run a marathon before. The most I've run is 15 miles. I've always wondered what distance in biking would be equivalent (mentally, physically, etc) to running a marathon? I know it is a highly subjective question. Maybe someone who has run marathons can compare to some of their long distance bike rides and let me know what they think.

  2. #2
    It's got electrolytes! chucky's Avatar
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    World records for speed and distance cycling are typically 4x those for running.

    So using that as a rule of thumb a 26 mile marathon is equivalent to 104 mile bike ride, which is not surprisingly close to a cycling milestone of similar clout (a century).

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    I've run a marathon and ridden many metrics. A metric is easier. I would agree with ^chucky^ to figure a 4x1 ratio. It depends on the person but I think running a marathon and cycling 100 miles is a simliar effort.

  4. #4
    Never enough miles... Fueco's Avatar
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    I'm going to say that this will vary greatly from person to person. For me, a marathon might be like biking for 200+ miles. Why? Because I'm not built for distance running. My legs can't handle running the way they can handle cycling.

    I've never done a marathon by itself, but I have done and Ironman triathlon. The run is certainly harder than the 112 mile bike ride that comes before it. It could be cumulative, but I'd have no problem riding another 112 miles after that ride. The run kicks my butt...

    For a runner-type, even riding 60 miles might be excruciatingly difficult...
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    There is none. I could never run a marathon, so there is no comparison. I'd rather do a century than run a half marathon. Uuuuugh. *shudder*

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    Quote Originally Posted by koffee brown View Post
    There is none. I could never run a marathon, so there is no comparison. I'd rather do a century than run a half marathon. Uuuuugh. *shudder*

    koffee
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    I think a good ratio is 3-4. I like to compare elites by time. An elite marathon is 2:07 to 2:15 or so. What cycling distance would that be? Less than a century I think, but a mid pack four hour guy might equal a four hour century guy.
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  8. #8
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    3-4 x's sounds good. But depends upon the terrain.. Try some of the Alpine Cols the TDF does.. I suspect that would almost make it one on one..?.. Still, it's not the same.. Running and biking uses different muscles.
    To think about running a Marathon.. A reason I stopped running at all. The knees were giving out. 26 mile run, I"d need a cast.. 104, my knees would be ok..
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    Thanks for all the great responses!

    I understand how many of you think they simply can't be compared. As many of you say, some of us aren't built for running, and some not built for cycling. Likewise, some of us are passionate for one, and hate the other. I strongly prefer biking, but I have trained for longer distance running and I know my body can adapt such that it isn't so strenuous.

    I guess I was really asking, if you had an athlete that had equal passion, average body type, and traveled average terrain for both biking and running, what would he/she consider a "marathon" bike ride? Or, perhaps another way to look at it, if you had a specialized biker of equal skill level for their sport as a specialized runner, what would they agree is the ratio?
    Last edited by lineinthewater; 10-24-09 at 07:50 AM.

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    I agree that they cannot be compared. In running, you expend a certain amount of energy moving your body up and down unlike walking where your core stays relatively at the same height. In cycling there is no total body movement, only your legs. Wind resistance has much more of an effect in cycling than running; running uphill is hard and so is running downhill; riding uphill is hard but downhill can be effortless.

    If you want to base it on calories expended, you'd have to find something that accurately measures calories, or work backwards from a watt meter on the bike; in running, it's harder to measure the energy used.

    I think that a century, ridden on flat roads, on good pavement, with neutral wind and favorable temperatures, is likely a lot easier than running a marathon in exactly the same conditions -- but that would depend on how much "to the max" each participant pushes.

    There is another way of looking at this:

    Could a regular century rider, without any other training, run a marathon ? I don't think that I could.

    Could a regular marathon runner, without any other training, ride a century ? I expect so ... could their butt stand another day in the saddle ? I expect not !
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  11. #11
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    No comparison. For most recreational athletes, running impacts the body in a way cycling does not, and one's legs fail long before one's wind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by thompsw View Post
    If you want to base it on calories expended, you'd have to find something that accurately measures calories, or work backwards from a watt meter on the bike; in running, it's harder to measure the energy used.
    I found this blog - has some interesting comparisons between biking and running:

    http://davesbikeblog.blogspot.com/20...-calories.html

    Using his numbers, it would take 1550 calories to either (1) bike 50 miles averaging 15mph or (2) run 14 miles (for his fitness level). So purely from a calorie perspective, for this example, biking 95 miles would be the same as a marathon. But obviously the comparison is much more complicated than this simple calculation.

    Quote Originally Posted by thompsw View Post
    Could a regular century rider, without any other training, run a marathon ? I don't think that I could.

    Could a regular marathon runner, without any other training, ride a century ? I expect so ... could their butt stand another day in the saddle ? I expect not !
    Remember, I didn't say a century = marathon. Others have, and that is their opinion (I'm trying to stay neutral). To use your metric, could a marathon runner ride a double-century without any training?
    .
    Last edited by lineinthewater; 10-24-09 at 07:10 AM.

  13. #13
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    I've run 14 marathons (and countless half marathons, 30k, etc) and ridden two centuries. I haven't ridden any long races. One thing to consider is that the marathons I ran were races, the centuries weren't. That alone makes it apples and oranges.

    Both take some training to do properly. Someone who is in shape for a century cannot run a marathon (without some serious pain) , someone who is in shape for a marathon cannot do a century (with the same qualification).

    They are very close in many regards but I'd say a marathon is a bit more punishing. My fastest century was just over 5 hours (including breaks and pack riding for perhaps a third of the distance), my fastest marathon was just over 3-1/2.

    I was beat after both but with the marathon I was pretty much wiped out for the day. I was also "feeling it" longer with the marathons.

    I can't imagine what it's like to do an Ironman!
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    Quote Originally Posted by twentysixtwo View Post
    They are very close in many regards but I'd say a marathon is a bit more punishing. My fastest century was just over 5 hours (including breaks and pack riding for perhaps a third of the distance), my fastest marathon was just over 3-1/2.
    So do you think your estimated ratio is more like 5 to 1? Like 130 miles = marathon?

    Quote Originally Posted by twentysixtwo View Post
    I can't imagine what it's like to do an Ironman!
    x2

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    For me a century and marathon weresimilar in how hard they feel at the time and how tired I feel afterwards (it's been a few years since I've done either). But after a century I was back on the bike and felt great two days later. After a marathon, I still couldn't walk too good two days later, and didn't feel good running until about 3 weeks.

  16. #16
    Never enough miles... Fueco's Avatar
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    I like the idea of comparing recovery times for the two events...

    After my longest pre-Ironman training run (18 miles), I was pretty much wiped out and could barely walk the next day, and riding my bike (which I did do!) was a pain. My longest pre Ironman training ride was 120 hilly miles (perhaps 8000 feet of climbing). I was completely fine the next day. But then, I'm a cyclist...

    You want pain? Try swimming 4+ miles in a day!
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  17. #17
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    100 miles on a bike is easy... running a marathon is not.

    But then... it has been a very long time since I ran 26 miles and I cycle constantly.

  18. #18
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    For me, a marathon is about equivalent to a century or longer. But the miles on my feet are much harder than the miles on my bike. There is no pounding on my joints and muscles from a bike ride, and I can also rest on a bike when coasting. You can't coast when you're on your feet.

    Marathons are also continuous events with brief (if any) stops at aid stations. During a cycling event I will generally get off the bike for 5-10 minutes at an aid station and eat or walk around for a bit so my cycling muscles get a little break.
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  19. #19
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    I'm a former LD runner and track/XC coach, and have completed a few marathons. "Former" because running eventually led to a ruptured disk after many years. I've ridden 71 centuries so far this year, including 8 in 9 days, and they were never a problem, and many/most of you could do it, too. I doubt there are very many people in the world who could run 8 marathons in 9 days.

    Dr. Ken Cooper, father of Aerobics, indicated in his early work (60s/70s) that a 4 mile bike ride was equivalent to a 1 mile run/walk. BUT that was for a generic 60s single speed, moderate tire bike.

    My own experiences lead me to consider about 6 miles on the bike at a solid pace equal to 1 mile running. That would put a marathon on par with a 156-mile ride.

  20. #20
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    I don't think they are really comparable. With running there is significant wear and tear on the body due to the constant impact with the ground. As long as there aren't any fit issues with the bike or other gear, an experienced cyclist should experience very little physical wear on their body from doing a century.

  21. #21
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I agree with the "no comparison" posts above, or more nearly, different comparison for different people. I don't like running or jogging, don't do well at it. I can ride all day, but can't jog for an hour straight. Now walking is a different matter.
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  22. #22
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    Fitness levels play a large role in how "easy" either is. I can complete a century ride with a fitness level that that comes very far short of what I had 30 years ago as a runner, and be good to go the next day. Back about 1980, I was a super-fit runner who could easily handle distances of up to about 1/2 marathon length. Going farther than that, I was pretty wiped out the next day. I know that if I converted my present cycling fitness to running, I'd feel as miserable and achy after 10K as I do riding a century.

    30 years ago, I rode a double century in one day (I was a very fit runner, and slightly more fit for riding than I am now). How I felt after that, is about the equivalent of how I expect I would have felt running a marathon (which I have not done, and may never do). This is a long way of saying I think 6-8 times the distance is where I'd estimate the range.
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  23. #23
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    I would agree with the six to eight times estimate above.

    Running a marathon is an epic effort - there is damage done. The wear and tear of your legs hitting the ground 55,000 times or whatever it takes to complete 26.2 is considerable. There is wear and tear in cycling, but not having to pound over the ground is huge.

    With typically a 16-week program, I can run a marathon and finish it reasonably strong. Anything less than serious training and I am in trouble. But I can do and have done centuries as my first or second ride of the season. Maybe 150-175 miles would be the biking equivalent for me - if I didn't work towards it, it would be trouble.
    Last edited by Fishy; 10-24-09 at 10:26 PM. Reason: typo

  24. #24
    Zoom zoom zoom zoom bonk znomit's Avatar
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    200 miles.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    100 miles on a bike is easy... running a marathon is not.

    But then... it has been a very long time since I ran 26 miles and I cycle constantly.
    Exactly. You're training for centuries all the time, but not training for marathons.

    Back when I was a runner, it was much easier for me to run a marathon than bike a century. Now that I've become an avid cyclist (and, consequently, stopped running), a century seems far easier.

    In general, I use a 4x ratio for the amount of effort it takes to bike versus run a given distance at my normal pace. So in terms of pure effort, I would rank biking a century and running a marathon to be about the same.

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