Previous studies of elite endurance athletes have suggested that success in distance running is attributable to the possession of a high maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), the utilisation of a large fraction of the VO2 max and to running economy. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationships between these physiological characteristics and running performance in active but not elite men and women. Maximal oxygen uptake values were 57.6 +/- 6.2 and 46.6 +/- 4.8 ml . kg.-1 min-1 for the men and women respectively (p less than 0.01). Running performance was assessed as a 5 km time trial and the men completed this distance in 19.77 +/- 2.27 min and the women in 24.44 +/- 3.19 min (p less than 0.01). Maximal oxygen uptake showed strong correlations (p less than 0.01) with running performance (men, r = -0.85; women, r = -0.80) but there was only a modest relationship between running economy and performance (men, r = 0.39; women, r = 0.34). The results of the present study suggest that the faster 5 km performance times recorded by the men were best explained by their higher VO2 max values.
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