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I have a female friend who is training for a 5km race. She's 1.6m tall and complains that her short legs (83cm long) penalize her.

I was looking at the women 5km world record holders and noticed that the top 3 are all exactly 1.60m tall like her (found height by googling the athlete's name, right hand side of search results) but couldn't find information as to their legs size.

Does anybody know how long the legs of these athletes are? Are there known theoretical value as to the optimum legs/body size ratio for runners?

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2 Answers 2

I'm not sure in what the use of an answer to leg-length/body-height ratio would be... leg-extensions?

Perhaps the most important is to get the most out of what you've got - learning to stride nicely and not scurry along your path. Most of success lies in training (and more than is credited in recovery too) - so if she puts her heart to it she'll be better(much-much better) than most runners.

Last fall I ran a 20k in 1:40, and a woman about 2-3x my size finished just before me - I seriously, will never ask how that was even possible. She must have had some awesome passion driving her. One really shouldn't judge output by someone's body.

Here's my favorite google answer.

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This article (which references this publication) suggests:

we expect people that are approximately the same size, and running at approximately the same speed, to use approximately the same frequency. That is an explanation for why the best marathon runners use the same step frequency

So, per your question about theoretical advantage of leg length, I don't think that's really the best question to ask. Rather, ask, "What is the best cadence for my leg length?" since we can't really do anything about our leg length (much to my chagrin).

I will suggest that in addition to working on gait/cadence, it's incredibly important to get correct form. One of the biggest inhibitors of efficient running is heel-striking. You lose an incredible amount of momentum when you heel strike. There are several types of shoes that are designed for different running forms. If you live in a decently sized city, most running stores will actually have a setup where you can run and they analyze your gait, degree of pronation, etc. for free. I'd highly recommend doing that for anyone interested in doing any type of running, whether recreational, competitive or otherwise.

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