Home » What is the Best Body to Run a Marathon? It Isn’t What You Think!

What is the Best Body to Run a Marathon? It Isn’t What You Think!

Running a marathon is no easy feat, and to be able to do so, is a great achievement within the world of sport. But is there a specific body type that is apt for running marathons?

After all, every single sport seems to have a body type that fits the physical requirements to perform well.

For example, swimmers are lean with broad shoulders, basketball players are tall, jockeys are short and as lightweight as possible...and the list goes on and on. 

Normal runners tend to be very lean, with enough muscle to push forward but lightweight enough to not be slowed down by their own body. But is it the same for a marathon?

Marathons are more of an endurance sport, and the running isn’t necessarily about going at top speed, but rather about being able to maintain a decent speed for a prolonged amount of time.

It’s true that certain body types are more apt for certain sports, in the sense that they can perform better with less effort because they’re naturally attuned to the requirements.

However, ultimately, the best body for running a marathon is yours. In fact, the best body for any sport is quite simply, the body of the person wanting to partake.

Body type only goes so far, with training and determination being two key factors that can affect the outcome.

Besides, you don’t have to win in order to run a marathon. Anyone can run a marathon as long as you are able to go the full distance! 

What is a marathon? Description and Origin

Before we get into what kind of body is right for running a marathon, let’s talk a little bit about what a marathon is and where it came from!

The marathon is a long-distance race, of exactly 42.195 km. So it’s definitely an endurance challenge that is all about being able to run the full distance. It is usually run on roads, and whenever one takes place it is usually a big event, as many areas need to be cordoned off in order to protect the runners from traffic.

Marathons are also open to everyone. In fact, marathons are the race in which the most variety of bodies are usually seen, as they’re considered more of a personal challenge and accomplishment, rather than a competitive event (although there are of course winners).

The origin of the marathon comes from a Greek legend. In it, a man named Philippides was in the battle of Marathon, in which the Greek army was about to rise victorious.

However, he saw a Persian vessel charging towards Athens, to attempt to claim a false victory. To stop this, Philippides ran the entire distance to the assembly, without stopping at all, and reached them in time to proclaim the Greek victory. Then he collapsed and died.

The distance that he ran is the 42.195 km that is run in a marathon, and the event became one of the original first official events within the Olympic games, to honor his effort and sacrifice. Of course, nowadays the runners don’t collapse and die upon completion!

Nowadays, marathons have become popular events, with many of them also serving as fundraisers for different charity causes or festivities.

Although the winners all tend to have a similar body type, which is the one you would imagine for a runner, you might be surprised at the vast variety of bodies that are able to successfully run a full marathon.

So let’s go back to talking about which body is the best for running a marathon, and whether it’s the one you think or not!

Training and Obtaining the ‘Right’ Body Type

In sport, and in almost every aspect of life, it is often said that you can achieve anything, so long as you put your mind to it.

This determination is vital for being able to finish a marathon, as it requires the inner strength and resolve to keep going, despite being tired and feeling as though you can’t keep going. However, you cannot perform well on determination and willpower alone.

For example, you might want to become a marathon winner, and you might be one of the most determined people out there. But other runners might have a body type better adapted to running, and they will therefore have the upper hand and be more likely to win, despite you putting in the extra effort.

Instead, people that want to improve their running performance in their goal to become a good marathon runner, will go through some extensive training. This training will obviously involve a lot of running, to build up the necessary endurance, and to become acquainted with the right running pace for you.

Training will also change your body, even if only slightly, and will help develop the physical requirements to push towards a faster pace while being able to endure the full distance. But in this case, does that mean that anybody can become a marathon winner as long as they train and obtain the right body type for it?

Can you simply change your body to fit the standards of a marathon? If so, what is the exact body needed?

Well, most marathon runners do indeed have the same or a similar body type. They have the strong leg muscles of a long-distance runner, which is what will power them through the effort. But their bodies are lean, having shed all unnecessary weight. It makes sense that the less weight your body is carrying, the faster it will be able to run, right?

But not all bodies become lean after undergoing training, in the same way, that competitive runners are. So someone could be fully prepared and capable of running a marathon in a highly successful manner, without having the body you’d expect!

If we’re going to determine the right body type by looking at the types of bodies that actually win the marathons, then we’re going to have to look at the top marathon runners and go from there. Let’s move on to that!

Top Marathon Runners and their Body

Let’s look at a list of the top marathon runners, both male, and female, that hold the record for the best times.

Or in other words, they hold the records for having run a marathon in the least amount of time. 

We’ll also list their height and weight, which can be used to determine their body type, and see what they have in common!

Top 5 Male Marathon Runners:

Eliud Kipchoge (from Kenya)

  • Marathon Time: 2:01:39
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Weight: 123 pounds

Mosinet Geremew (from Ethiopia)

  • Marathon Time: 2:02:55
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 126 pounds

Dennis Kimetto (from Kenya)

  • Marathon Time: 2:02:57
  • Height: 5’7”
  • Weight: 121 pounds

Khalid Khannouchi (from the USA)

  • Marathon Time: 2:05:38
  • Height: 5’6”
  • Weight: 126 pounds

Galen Rupp (from the USA)

  • Marathon Time: 2:06:07
  • Height: 5’11”
  • Weight: 134 pounds

Top 5 Female Marathon Runners:

Paula Radcliffe (from Great Britain)

  •  Marathon Time: 2:15:25
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 119 pounds

Mary Keitany (from Kenya)

  • Marathon Time: 2:17:01
  • Height: 5’2”
  • Weight: 93 pounds

Ruth Chepngetich (from Kenya)

  • Marathon Time: 2:17:08
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 106 pounds

Deena Kastor (from the USA)

  • Marathon Time: 2:19:36
  • Height: 5’4”
  • Weight: 104 pounds

Shalane Flanagan (from the USA)

  • Marathon Time: 2:21:14
  • Height: 5’5”
  • Weight: 106 pounds

So, if we look at the bodies of all of these top marathon runners, we can find a few things in common that can be used to determine the body type that is most apt for performing well at a marathon.

As for the height, none of the men reach 6 feet, with most of them being pretty short in regards to the average. The same goes for the women, with the exception of Paula Radcliffe, who is actually quite tall.

As for the weight, the national average is 197 pounds for men and 170 pounds for women. All these marathon runners are insanely below that average.

If we combine the weight with the height, the BMI of all these top marathon runners would class their bodies as “underweight”.

Of course, BMI isn’t the most trustworthy of systems when it comes to determining body health, but it does give us an image of what the marathon-winning body looks like: short, underweight, and lean muscles.

The question is, is that body type simply a result of training at a competitive level? Or do you have to naturally have that body type? We’ll never really know for sure!

The Best Body to Run a Marathon

Okay, so we now know that having a leaner body build with less weight is what can help you become a better marathon runner, and it’s what all the top marathon runners have in common. Does that mean that it’s officially the best body to run a marathon?

No. Because the best body to run a marathon is yours. If you have a healthy body, and you want to run a marathon, you can do it!

There’s nothing in the way except for the effort and time you will have to put in. If your body isn’t similar to that of top runners, it’s true that you will struggle a little more, but you can still successfully complete a full marathon race!

Some people might tell you that in order to prepare for a marathon you should lose some weight. You don’t have to! As long as you’re healthy, determined, and you’ve trained yourself enough to develop the necessary endurance, it doesn’t matter how small or big your body is.

It’s also important that you don’t obsess over the necessary BMI. Although top marathon runners are all classed as having an underweight BMI, this isn’t needed to run a marathon at a normal level.

In fact, a lot of healthy muscular people are classed as overweight according to the BMI, because muscle weighs more than fat. BMI simply isn’t a reliable source of determining health, and the most important thing is for you to feel comfortable in yourself, and ready enough for the marathon.

Here’s the thing about a marathon: there is no time limit. It doesn’t matter if you can’t run as fast as the top runners. What matters is that you’re able to sustain a pace that suits you, in order to finish the full distance.

Some marathons will have a time limit after which they no longer make a record of who has completed the marathon, but this time frame tends to be generous enough to allow for a slower pace.

If you run a full marathon, then you have a body that is perfect for running a marathon, because you did it! No matter the type, height, weight, or BMI. Do you run? Then you have a runner’s body.

In Conclusion

So, to sum things up a bit. What is the best body to run a marathon?

If we analyze the bodies of all the top marathon runners, they share quite a lot in common. They tend to be short, underweight, and have lean muscles.

Basically, they’re strong runners with a diet and training that helps them shed unnecessary weight, in order to make running a marathon all the easier.

But this article isn’t about the best body to win a marathon. It’s about the best body to run one. And guess what? The best body to run a marathon is your own. No matter its shape, size, or BMI. If you can run a marathon, then you’ve proven that your body is ideal for it!

It might not be as easy to run a marathon if your body type is different from that of top runners. But as long as you’re healthy, you train up your endurance, and you’re determined enough to keep going until you’ve run the full distance, then nothing can stand in your way.

You don’t have to look like a stereotypical runner in order to run, and you don’t have to change your body type to successfully run a marathon. So just go out there, give it your best, and be proud of how your body is able to carry you through the challenge!


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