What VO2max does a 130lb runner need to run sub-2hr marathons?

67 according to Nike. Not as high as I would have guessed but then again, that is a very small person.

A few other interesting bits of data in this article.

1 Like

Now I know the Garmin VO2max calc is cr@p. I’m 129lbs and Garmin says my VO2 max is 68 but there’s no way I could run a sub 2hour marathon :joy:

1 Like

To be fair, your Garmin estimated VO2max is probably less cr@p than the headline of “have VO2max of 67 = run 2hr marathon”.

The next line in the paper literally says “It was notable, however, that only 7 athletes from the cohort [of 16 world-class runners] were able to attain a V̇O2 steady-state when running over-ground at 21.0 km/h.” Meaning less than half the already world-class runners had a hope of sustaining that speed for any duration… and if I’m not mistaken they were only required to maintain 21 km/h for 2min, albeit at the end of a longer protocol. So that might not indicate VO2 is actually sustainable for anywhere near 2 hrs.

That headline figure might be true for a magical unicorn athlete with absolute world-class running economy, metabolic efficiency, fractional VO2max at threshold, and fatigue resistance.

All just a fancy way to say VO2max ≠ performance. Otherwise a very cool paper worth a read if you’re interesting in what factors DO go into running performance.


You do realize that their weight is irrelevant, don’t you?

IOW, all else being equal everyone would need a VO2max of 67 mL/min/kg, regardless of what they weighed.

Think one more step ahead. Why couldn’t Kirui hang with Kawauchi at the end?

Let me try again.

The speed at which you can run 26.2 miles is dependent upon your VO2max, the fraction of VO2max that you can sustain, and your running economy, i.e., the rate at which you need to consume O2 while running at that speed.

All else being equal, a heavier person would require more energy, and hence more O2, while running at a given speed. (This is why running economy is normally expressed relative to body mass.) However, all else being equal they would also have a higher absolute VO2max. The two effects cancel each other out, meaning that the relative VO2max theoretically required would be 67 mL/min/kg, regardless of how large (or small) a person is.

I’m pretty sure it’s not saying one needs a 67 v02 max, but rather needs to hold that level of oxygen consumption for two hours. Presumably, one would need a significantly higher than 67 v02 max to maintain that level of oxygen consumption for two hours.

“ Based on outdoor running tests on 16 athletes in the selection stage of Breaking2, the study found that a 59kg runner would need to take in about four litres of oxygen per minute (or 67ml per kg of weight per minute) to maintain two-hour marathon pace (21.1 km/h).”


still didn’t get it. That was a better attempt, though. Need to think two moves ahead.

The point regarding weight is a good one - a 200kg runner would also require a 2-hour VO2 cap of 67mL/min/kg, since that measure is a relative and not absolute condition.

I think this is key and makes this all the more interesting. If your VO2max is 67, then you certainly can’t sustain that level of effort for 2 hours. This then brings into consideration LT/LTP metrics and where they fall relative to your VO2max. If you were to assume that the runner’s LTP is at 85% of VO2 max (and we believe they can race right at their LTP), then to run at 67 mL/min/kg for 2 hours we would assume the runner needs to have a VO2max around 79, which seems much more in line with what we would expect from elites.

Would you agree?


I wouldn’t be too harsh on yourself… :rofl:

1 Like

Is that true for running though? Isn’t there allometric scaling of running economy with body mass? I guess that would apply to the economy side of the equation, not the VO2max per se. But again this is more a case of bad headline writing then bad understanding of physiology on OP’s or (obviously) the authors’ parts. Let’s try to keep the conversation productive?

“all else being equal”

And, yes, we’re our down this rabbit hole almost entirely due to the OP’s misunderstanding of physiology.

“regardless of what they weighed”

Yes, thank you. I take your point. [edit] I guess my point is changing weight necessarily changes other factors, so all else wouldn’t be equal?

While Vo2 max is a great metric and body weight does normalize it some, I thought it was definitely influenced by body composition and the sport you train. If I understand it correctly, the reason why the top of the VO2 charts is filled with XC skiers is that they are using their full body in their sport. More mitochondria in the arms and back are being trained to perform vs running and cycling.

Is this normalized if everyone does VO2max test on the bike or treadmill? or is it just a training thing where XC skiing which is lots of sprinting up hills and tucking down (basically over-unders) vs marathon racing which is trying to achieve the fastest steady-state possible.

If they are maintaining a VO2 of 67 for two hours, doesn’t that imply a VO2max of 90+?

Rough guess using ramp test estimate FTP which is 75% of final minute. Probably higher than 90VO2 max since unlikely that 75% of VO2 max is being held for two hours

1 Like

One thing that allows him to perform the 2 hour marathon is his exceptional running (and aerobic) economy. I think there is probably an ideal body composition to maximize that efficiency. Which is covered in the journal article, there is an economy figure, which is not all equal between runners.


No. It’s been known for decades that elite marathon runners may maintain as much as 90% of VO2max for the duration of the race.

When scaled allometrically, the VO2max of elite athletes is independent of their sport - see the bottom panel of the figure below.

1 Like

Flawed study as everyone knows Norwegians are born XC skiing and just proves my point. Just kidding, thanks for the info and the cool graph.

Just always had a bias toward XC skiers as they would show up at a mountain bike race a whoop everyone and then say they don’t ride much and just do it as cross-training :disappointed_relieved:.