Clothing weight is another factor that can influence an athlete’s efficiency. Stevens (1983) calculated the effect of the weight of clothing on marathon racing performance. He found that the typical nylon vest and shorts worn by marathon runners weighed 150 g; 100% cotton shorts and vest weighed 234 g; and a heavy track suit weighed 985 g. Stevens calculated that changing from nylon to cotton clothing would increase a world-class runner’s marathon time by about 13 seconds and an average 3:40 marathoner’s time by about 23 seconds. Running in a full track suit would increase the average runner’s marathon time by about 4 minutes.
However, laboratory experiments do not necessarily substantiate these calculations. Cureton et al. (1978) found that the addition of up to 5% of body weight (up to 4 kg in an 80-kg runner) to the torso increased the oxygen cost of running by only about 2.5 %. Extrapolation of these data suggest that the addition of even 1 kg of extra weight to the torso in the form of clothing would increase the oxygen cost of running by less than 0.5 %.
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Extra weight added to the legs or feet appears to have a far greater effect on running economy. Martin (1985) found that the addition of 0.5 kg to each thigh or to each foot increased the oxygen cost of running by 3.5 and 7.2%, respectively, values considerably higher than those found by Cureton et al. (1978). A number of other studies (Catlin & Dressendorfer, 1979; Frederick et al, 1984;
B.H. Jones et al, 1984, 1986; Martin, 1985; Stripe, 1982b) showed that the addition of 1 kg to the feet increases the oxygen cost of running by between 6 and 10%, or about 1 % per 100 g increase in the weight of footwear. The increase is the same in men and women (B.H. Jones et al, 1986).
Clearly, a 1 % savings in energy expenditure during a standard marathon race, for example, is not inconsiderable; if translated directly into a 1 % improvement in performance it would mean a savings of 77 seconds at world-record marathon pace, equivalent to a sub-2:07 standard marathon. But we have yet to prove that this energy savings will cause an equivalent improvement in running performance.