Is Height an Advantage for Distance Running?

There is nothing wrong with being short, but does being tall make you a better distance runner? Many tend to believe that it is advantageous due to the apparent reason of one having long strides, but is that really enough? Let’s find out.

First, let us uncover a few obvious correlations between running and being tall, shall we?

The correlation between being tall and running

First things first, as mentioned, a tall runner has longer, wider strides. And this means that if a short and tall runner are neck-in-neck, the taller runner might have the edge. It is true, but what if the shorter runner has faster steps? This means that they are both on the same competitive stage.

A taller person, without a doubt, has more linear mass than a shorter lean person. Thus while they run, they burn more energy, generating more power because of the bigger muscles that store more running’ fuel.’ Closely looking at this correlation, as a tall runner keeps up speed, their body heats up; thus, they would need to slow down to cool the body.

A taller runner is also at a mechanical disadvantage of running uphill. And the reasons are pretty obvious. The legs’ length makes it a challenge to going uphill, which means that a tall runner will become slower since they have to bend their legs a bit more while they run uphill. On the flip side, when they go downhill, they simply cruise downwards, taking advantage of gravity which is entirely on their side.

That said, a tall runner may do better at a downward sloping track rather than an uphill one.

So is this why we have the best gold-medalist runners shorter?

Let’s take a look at what makes a successful marathon runner.

What it takes to become a successful marathon runner

This part helps both shorter and taller runners, but each topic discussed below will touch on height and how different runners of varying heights can approach each stage. 

Proper Training

Despite having a minimal effect on distance running, one thing that is for sure that could make or break your career is the quality of your training. Training for long-distance running is not a thing you get up and just do; it takes time and effort in your training. It is an everyday build-up of stamina and resilience that helps build your muscles to be able to sustain the final mile.

So much so, for a long-distance runner to get the most of training, they must follow a few rules. And here are a few:

One must be aware of their limit.

Know Your Limits

Indeed the sky’s limit, but let’s be real, even the best runner has a limit; do you know yours? When it comes to determining your limits, you have to look into what you can handle. Indeed you may push yourself, but to what costs? You must ensure that your limit is accommodative in that it does not cause any harm to you. Knowing your limits will help you stay healthy and keep your limbs in the best shape.

This applies to both tall and short marathon runners. For every case, a physician must be involved in your training regime so that you ensure you are healthy.

One should start early training.

As aforementioned, running a marathon is a build-up, and to get the best out of it all, start training early. One starts small with manageable distances and timing each leg of the track. And most importantly, watching their pace and health state.

Picking up slowly, the mileage is the best approach to add a km after a day or two after hitting the target pace and timing. Starting early enables you to make the necessary adjustments in your running progress. You know where to slow down and when to pick the speed up.

How differently should a tall runner train?

Training undoubtedly varies from runner to runner, but as a tall long-distance runner, there are a few things that help one become better at it.

For instance, a tall runner should stay away from hard intervals and emphasize the tempo runs and miles. The tempo runs are also called anaerobic threshold runs that are a pack of 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than the current 5k race pace. These runs may be a bit slower or faster than the average pace. The best time to bring in temp runs is in the latter stages of training.

A taller runner is also advantageous if they train their core muscles to build more stamina and endurance. A taller runner is also advised to run leaning forward to use gravity to their advantage. This results in the reduction of adequate height and helps one propel forward at faster paces.

The best running gear

Another component that makes a good marathon runner is the gear they choose to use while they train and in the actual marathon. And the first item on the list is a pair of good running shoes.

Running shoes

Nike Free Running Shoes
Provided by Amazon

Indeed, there are so many sporty shoes in the market for running, but did you know that bigger, taller runners need to pay closer attention to their shoes?

Here is why:

If you run in the wrong pair of shoes that do not support your weight well, you may over-time injure your lower back and limbs. If the shoes are not well cushioned for pressure, that may be catastrophic in the long run, thus cutting your running career before it even picks up.

The solution is to get a trusted brand and remember that a neutral running position is vital for all runners who have larger feet, which usually translates to taller runners.


Clothing involves the overall vest, shorts, and socks. Everything you get must be breathable and light such that even with a drizzle during your run, the extra water droplets landing on your clothing do not add any extra weight to weigh you down.

So this means that you must entirely stay clear from cotton clothing as it becomes heavy when wet. Opt for ultra-light clothing made in high-quality nylon or polyester. Also, ensuring that your clothes do not harbor any heat to the body, go for loose clothing.

If you are a taller runner, opt for clothes that fit and not too tight. It would be best if you run freely without feeling pressed or confined.

Other running accessories

You might need a few extras like a GPS, heart rate tracker, speedometer, thermometer, and a timer while you run. Luckily, with modern technology, all these plus more can fit inside a smartwatch. With such, you can track when to slow down to cool down the body to avoid overheating, and you can also time your tempo runs to become more efficient.

Garmin Forerunner 945
Provided by Amazon

These kinds of gear must be used all through your training up to the moment to take part in the marathon.

Resilience and discipline

Run Discipline

One of the many characters a marathon runner must have is resilience. And this is pushing yourself a level higher to where you are at the moment. A resilient runner will stick to their training schedule, and always level up, intending to reach their target at every stage.

Discipline is being dedicated and committed to reaching your goal by following the plan to the latter. With these two characteristics, a marathon runner is on the right track.

What wins you a race; Tall or short?

The things mentioned above are the material things that make a marathon runner successful, but here are the things that actually make one win a race.


Speed - Is Height an Advantage for Distance Running?

The fastest runner is not necessarily the one who wins a marathon, but a fast runner who knows how to work their speed strategically crosses the line first.

As a tall runner, your stride length is more extended and vice versa for a short athlete. And when the stride length is strategically set on a working frequency, the taller runner is at an advantage. If you are running on an optimized cadence (number of steps per minute), then you can definitely run a great race simply because you are tall.


Runner Flexibility

Flexibility is the ability to shift one’s anatomy to make changes while running without wearing out the body. And this can be physical or mental. Physical flexibility entails the change in running speed, breathing patterns, and any other thing in between. Physical fitness adds to this kind of flexibility, and it ensures that even if you trip, you can recover and keep running and staying in pace.

Mental flexibility employs the runners’ resilience to weather conditions and temperature changes. Such keeps you going.

The foot-ground strike

This is the force of the runner’s contact with the ground on each foot strike with the track. The more powerful your foot strike, the faster you run. And this is based upon the physics third law of motion-; the action-reaction law.

Your height does not determine this footstrike, but it involves a blend of strength and flexibility in your limbs, hamstrings, and quads. It also includes your stride length.

Take away

Running a marathon and completing it is a worthy achievement warranting a celebration, but what makes the experience even better is when you win!

So is height an advantage for distance running?

Well, the answers are both yes and no. And so this levels out the playing field, or should we say the running track!

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