Could Lance Armstrong compete in a marathon?

How different is long distance biking from long distance running?
Different muscle groups?
Different skill sets?
How bout mentally?
I think he wouldn’t have a problem with overall body stamina (lungs, heart, muscle fatigue), but would he be able to excell at the marathon in the same way he has excelled at biking?

From looking at other elite marathon runners, I think that Armstrong’s muscle weight might put him at a competitive disadvantage. Of course, if he were to train for a marathon, a lot of that weight would drop off.

He started out as a traithlete, so he’s got to be a pretty good runner. What would have happened if he had concentrated on running instead of cycling? Who knows. There is no factual answer to your question. I’m sure he could have been competitive, but there’s no way of knowing if he could have won as much as he does in cycling. He’s really good at metablozing oxygen (see VO2MAX) and has unusually low lactate levels (he doesn’t feel “muscle burn” as badly as others do).

WAG: Without any running training? I think he’d fall over at some point with dying leg muscles. Running uses different muscles than bicycling (I can attest to this). He is Lance Armstrong, so he might be able to keep going when any mortal human being would have already been begging for death, but he wouldn’t do as well as an average athlete who had been training.

More WAG: Assuming the Lance takes six months to concentrate on long-distance running? I bet he’d do credibly, but I suspect being world-champion level requires both extraordinary endurance (Lance: check and double-check) but also legs with just the right proportions to minimize energy use (Lance: probably not).
This concludes the Quercus Speculation Based on No Experience Hour.

The OP Question was: "Could Lance Armstrong compete in a marathon?"Of course the answer is YES!
The details ask could he win?
WAG Get him to compete and we’ll know for sure. Debatable otherwise.

Here’s a Runner’s World article on “How Fast Could Lance Run A Marathon?” Found it by googling for “lance armstrong” “run|ran a marathon”

Yours is a sensible response. Given Lance’s ultra-elite physiology, exceptional conditioning and training, and obsessive mental toughness, he would in all probability have no difficulty knocking off a marathon and would probably turn in an impressive showing. As indicated above, he’s a world-class distance athlete. (He also is not as muscular as some suggest.)

Re: the claims that running and bicycling involving different muscles, please provide cites. When Lance cranks that pedal, I’m guessing he pushing and pulling the crank, thus exercising front and back muscles.

One thing he may lack is a world-class marathoner’s stride.

Thanks, that pretty much sums it up.


Could a marathoner compete in consecutive marathons in the way that Tour bikers compete in consecutive races?
Which guy burns more calories - the runner who just completed a marathon or the biker that just completed the days race in the Tour?

Not a cite, but personal experience - I have pulled a calf muscle bad enough that I had to walk with a severe limp and a lot of pain, yet I got on my bike and rode to work and on a training ride in the evening with no problem. It took close to two weeks before I could run again, but I didn’t miss a day on the bike.

Interesting, but it doesn’t prove or disprove the OP.

Another datapoint: several times I’ve been in decent biking shape but unable to run for a long time. Trust me, even if you’ve been biking a lot, your first one-mile run will make you aware there are some different muscles involved. Mostly in the calf, in my experience-- pushing off at the ankle for running is way different than rotating a pedal.

Another possible factor:

His triathlon experience notwithstanding … would his lack of experience in high level marathon running be much of a hindrance (read: cost him some time over 26 miles)? Granted, he’s far more prepared for such competition than the average couch potato … but maybe there are uber-fine points of marathon running that he’d need to pick up before he could be a world-class marathoner.

I used to race in triathlons, and from personal experience I can tell you that different muscle groups are emphasized on the bike vs. the run. The focus on the bike is your quads and calves, while the run is more about hamstrings. In fact, triathlon-specific bikes have a geometry designed to help save your hamstrings for the run. If anyone wants, I can look up more specific details in my training books tonight after work.

Overall though, there’s enough crossover between the disciplines that I believe he would be able to complete a marathon and while he may not win, at least turn in a respectable time.

I think that running is probably a bit harder than cycling, but the difference in duration of the two events is pretty big. I’m not certain about record times, but I think that 2:15 is a pretty fast time for a marathon, right? Tour stages can commonly run 5 hours. The runner would have to use calories at more than twice the rate of the cyclist to use more calories. I don’t think that’s likely.

The cyclist burns more calories. IIRC, on a century (roughly equivalent to one tour stage) you can expect to burn around 5,000 calories. A runner burns a bit over 100 calories/mile, or 2,600 calories for a marathon. These are ballpark figures, the exact amount depending on your weight and pace.

However, it is much easier to eat and drink on a bike than while running. No one really knows why running and eating make you hurl more than biking, but it is the case. Presumably, it is related to the pounding of even the smoothest stride.

Sure, Lane is tough. So are elite marathoners. In fact, I’m sure they’d find each other’s sport harder than their own. Sure, Lance is a great athlete. So is anybody who can run a 4:50 mile, let alone 26.2 consecutive miles.

In the end, all of this is speculation. Elite marathoners can put in 100+ mile weeks, routinely. Would Lance hold up to that? (Running is much harder on the body, injury wise, than biking.) Who knows? Is Lance proportioned right? Beats me. Not just any Kenyan is recruited for marathons. When I ran Boston, they had an article on a Kenyan who was something like 1/4 inch taller than was thought to be ideal, so it was very hard for him to get accepted. (I think he was still only about 5’ 10".)

VO2 max is not the sole determining factor for marathoners. (Matt Carpenter, a mountain runner, has -or had- the second highest VO2 max ever measured. At 6200 feet by the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. IIRC, he placed 50th or so at Boston, and while qualifying for one Olympic Trials, his best marathon was around a 2:19.) In fact, it is probably less important in a marathon than in shorter races. A marathoner is not pushing VO2 max, nor running at lactate threshold. You can run at lactate threshold for 30-40 minutes, which is more than enough for an elite 10K, but way short of a marathon.

I’d listen to his trainer, Carmichael. If anyone knows Lance, it is Carmichael. Carmichael also works with other elite athletes, including triathletes, and should know. Yeah, Lance might surprise him, but not to the tune of 30 seconds a mile.

As far as multiple long-distance runs go, I don’t see why not. Here are a couple of examples:

This guy ( did 200 marathons in the year 2000.

And this fellow ran 11,800 miles in 274 days - That’s an average 43 miles per day, continuously.

I guess we will find out. LA plans on running the NYC marathon


First off, anybody can run a marathon. I am a great big fatass and I ran a half marathon last year and am training to go for the full marathon this year. If I can do it, Lance Armstrong surely can do it and probably do it better than I.

Second, the two are substantially different exercises in the muscle groups that they use. Also, the pounding motion of running is murder on your joints. If Lance isn’t blessed with good joints then he is going to wash out in training. In fact a lot of cyclists are cyclists for that very reason. However, running and cycling both require excellent cardio, so Lance would have a head-start over a rank amateur in this regard. Mentally I have to think any endurance competition is fairly similar… you have to stay focused, be determined, and keep distracting the left-brained comfort-seeking rationalizations.

Would he excel? Well, that’s the million dollar question in any athletic competition, isn’t it. He couldn’t excel without first retraining as a runner. He wouldn’t automatically excel at running just because he’s an excellent cyclist, but he’d outperform a beginner just by virtue of having better cardiovascular condition and a mind geared toward physical endurance competitions.

Question answered:

Lance finished in 2:59:36
(note to mods, I decided necroposting was OK in this case)