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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 10-22-12, 02:58 PM   #1
DGlenday
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Comparing Long Distance Cycling With Long Distance Running

An interesting item has arisen on the 41 forum, and I thought I'd pose the question here. This is obviously a completely unscientific and very subjective comparison, but I still find it interesting, and quite fun:

How would you compare cycling distance with running distance, in terms of effort and exertion?

I was a big runner 35 years ago - but haven't been on the pavement for years, and don't plan to buy running shoes at any time in the near future. However, in a conversation with some cycling buddies a while ago I was saying that it seemed to me that running a marathon would be way harder than riding a fast century. One of the guys surprised me - said that he's run over 20 marathons, and felt that riding a fast century was far harder than running a marathon.

In the conversation in the 41 forum, folks are saying that it's about a 5:1 ratio. I.e. running a reasonably quick 10 miles is about as hard as doing a reasonably fast 50 mile ride.

If you believe the 5-to-1 ratio is about right, then we're close to "running a marathon" every time we do a 200km brevet . Funny - I've never thought of myself as being in the same league as marathon runners!



Your thoughts?
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Old 10-22-12, 03:10 PM   #2
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Cycling isn't as hard on the joints.

It's easier to eat and drink on the bike than it is while running.

You can coast on the bike for a bit and catch your breath or stretch out an impending muscle cramp.

Cycling has a higher cost of entry.

Those are, in my mind, the biggest differences.
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Old 10-22-12, 08:22 PM   #3
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I was a sub-3 hour marathoner in my late 20s. That's nowhere near good, but it is far better than average. I would say that running a fast marathon---say under 2:40---is way tougher than riding a century in 5 hours.

When you talk about just running a marathon to finish--say in the 3:30 to 4:30 range, then it might be easier than riding a century averaging 20 mph.
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Old 10-23-12, 06:19 AM   #4
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Absolutely no comparison. I was a 190 lb marathon runner in my late 30's. Best time was 2:42 at Napa. The last 6+ miles of a fast marathon can be excruciating, both uphill and downhill taking a huge mental toll; there is no let-up. Fast forward 25+ years and I'll never do a 5 hour century, but we cycled 385 miles in 4 days with our 10 y/o twin sons so simply riding a century was a piece of cake. We didn't have much in the way of fancy electronics, but I was more than fast enough to do a sub-5 century.
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Old 10-23-12, 06:40 AM   #5
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Ive done several sub 5 hr century rides with a group, but I have never done one solo. Never ran more than a half marathon during my triathlon days, but I think running/jogging is much harder physically on the body than cycling is. Cycling gives one multiple ways to rest while still moving forward, where as in running you dont.
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Old 10-23-12, 11:27 AM   #6
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I think a big part of it is that people have a certain expectation of what "running" a marathon consists of. If you approached a marathon like you approach a 200k, you'd just go walk the thing and in 8 or 9 hours, you'd be done, no big deal. If you set an expectation that it's got to be done in XX hours to "count", then it's a lot different, but then, so is a 200k- with each ranging from "anyone can do it" to "impossible" depending on where you set the time limits.

When I was in high school, I did a March of Dimes "Walkathon". That was 20 miles on flat ground, took around 6 hours, walking with friends and laughing and cutting up. It was easy, and a bunch of total non-athletes could do it with zero preparation in regular sneakers. But that's not what you think of when someone says "marathon". A typical century or 200k is usually somewhere in between those two in difficulty.

In general, running or jogging for an equal length of time is a lot harder for me than bike riding, and that's one reason I ride and don't run. Walking on level ground, on the other hand, is easier, but not really that much exercise, either. Walking uphill is comparable, is good exercise, and something I've really enjoyed when I lived where there were significant "hills" to go up.

If you just rode a bike at a fast pace, while someone rode beside you and continually noogied your arm, that's kind of what running is like- you have the exertion but also a lot of needless discomfort to go with it.
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Old 10-23-12, 11:38 AM   #7
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Could be 5:1 in terms of distance, but I think it's more like 3:1 in terms of time. So in comparing a 10k run to a 50-km ride, I would say that a 40-minute 10k would be equivalent to a 25kmh 50 kilometers. 2 hours/40 minutes = 120/40 = 3/1. For training, I would equate a 30-minute maintenance run with a 1h30m maintenance ride. A 3h30m ride (90-100 km) would be equivalent to a 1h10m run (12 km, slightly under 10 miles).

So running is probably more efficient, but I think that for most people, it wrecks their body. I can't run; my lower back complains severely. It's totally different muscles. When I was running, if I went too far, my legs would really complain. Cycling is a much better sport for most people > 50.

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Old 10-23-12, 12:28 PM   #8
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I had a similar thought the other day while commuting home (what if I was running this distance.) It occurred to me that the two would be more comparable if you were running fixed-gear. Like with running, your feet are always moving, you must always put a foot somewhere, so you are watching the ground like a hawk. And you can't coast when running!
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Old 10-23-12, 02:14 PM   #9
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It depends on what you're trained for, but for me personally it's more like a 10:1 ratio (in terms of distance). I don't run much-- usually one 3 mile run each week. That run at a pretty slug-like pace feels about the same as a really hard 30 mile ride. Further, I could probably go ride 260 miles tomorrow, and while it wouldn't be easy, I'd most likely finish the ride without hurting myself. However, I highly doubt that I could go out and run a marathon tomorrow without doing some serious damage.

Incidentally, when Lance Armstrong ran his first marathon in 2006 he said it was the "hardest physical thing" he had ever done. His time was 2:59. (no word on whether he was doping when he did it.)
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Old 10-23-12, 02:27 PM   #10
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Incidentally, when Lance Armstrong ran his first marathon in 2006 he said it was the "hardest physical thing" he had ever done. His time was 2:59. (no word on whether he was doping when he did it.)
Wow, maybe I should have taken bike racing more seriously. Back in 1982, when I took a break from bike racing due to the kids being small, I got tired of people saying what a supreme physical achievement marathon running was (running was the craze in those days). I decided I would train 6 months and then run the Vancouver Marathon just so I could tell people at cocktail parties how easy it was.

So I trained 8 months, trained up to 2/3 distance, did some speedwork/intervals on the track with a good local runner, then ran the Vanc Marathon in 2:54. It was actually quite easy; I sprinted the last 100 meters, so I guess I hadn't gone fast enough.

And I swear on a stack of bibles that I was completely clean! Next day, I decided I had enough and didn't do much, if any, running since. Cycling is just so much more fun.

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Old 10-23-12, 02:59 PM   #11
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And I swear on a stack of bibles that I was completely clean!
Yeah, that's what Lance said too.

In the article I linked to, Lance claimed that he wasn't able to train enough. He said, that he could have done 2:30 if he had trained properly. I don't doubt that.
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Old 10-23-12, 08:29 PM   #12
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I don't know what ratio I'd put on it, but to me, running is way harder on the body. This is a good way to think of it: most of us could ride a 200k in a "good" (relative to the rider) time, and then, do it again the next day. I bet that most of us could not run a marathon in a "good" time, and repeat it the next day. I think ThermionicScott is right about the fixed gear being more like running, though I'd say it's more because of the lack of easier gears, than the inability to coast.
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