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ATP and Energy Pathways

Yesterday my running coach (henceforth known as RC) told me I was a talented runner. He also told me he believed I could run sub 1:20 for the half marathon and sub 3:00 hours for the full marathon. Yes, Mario has always told me that he believed in my potential in a runner and I could accomplish great things. But to hear it coming from someone with quite an impressive running résumé and who had no reason to tell me that, gave me a great sense of pride as a runner. I’ve never thought of myself as a talented runner and I certainly never thought of myself as being able to run that fast.  But maybe I’ve never thought those things because I’ve never really tried. I never saw the possibility, but now I see so many new possibilities. Maybe one day I will run under 3 hours in the marathon.

Interestingly enough, now that more people other than my family, think of me as a talented runner, I feel like I have this obligation to be that person. I’ve been a runner for a long time, but talented…. that’s a new one for me. I started thinking last night, how long will it take me to come close to these super ambitious goals and what can I do on a day to day basis to speed up this process? While doing some reading this morning before work, I learned a few things about what exactly goes on during the body during running and what biological processes in particular are important to marathon runners. Allow me to share:

  • the main energy substrate for human muscle is ATP
  • ATP is replenished by three energy pathways – the adenosine triphosphate-phosphocreatine pathway (rapidly replaces ATP), the lactic acid energy pathway (AKA anerobic glycolysis), and the oxygen energy pathway (produces substantial quantities of ATP but at a slower rate than the other two pathways and more important during marathon running)
  • there are two key systems involved in the oxygen energy pathway – the neuromuscular and cardiovascular-respiratory system
  • VO2max is the ability of the cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen and the neuromuscular system to utilize oxygen (I concluded that since my VO2max is pretty high, 60.4%, my two systems work pretty well together.)

(Source: Sports Science Research, Mel Williams, Ph.D.)

And as someone who has experimented with paleo, intermittent fasting, and low carb eating, I found this last piece of information to be quite interesting…

  • carbohydrates produce more ATP per unit of oxygen than fat

So in summary, ATP is super important, the ability of ATP to be replenished is essential for running, and the cardiovascular system and neuromuscular system working together efficiently, increases oxygen utilization.  Now my next question is how do I increase ATP production? 🙂 Perhaps a topic for tomorrow’s blog.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: I HAD to go slower today. I’ve been pushing myself probably too hard and not giving my body the rest it needs. An easy 3 miles before my hard workout tomorrow. Felt good and stats are here. Oh, and I got new arm warmers. 🙂

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  1. Increasing ATP | Run Inspired.

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