Harvard Graduate Invents Formula for Marathon Runners

In line with many upcoming marathon sports events, the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Department graduate student, Benjamin Rapoport invented a formula that prevents runners from hitting the wall.

In order to strategically balance energy levels over a whole marathon of 26.2 miles (42 kilometers), the idea is to calibrate running pace and consume carbohydrate during the race in order to boost the body’s energy level.

Rapoport created an online calculator that takes into account variables such as the athlete’s age, weight, goal time and a measurement of aerobic capacity called the VO2max, and calculates the necessary carbohydrate consumption which should ideally be conducted during the run. The VO2max detects the sequence of oxygen deliverance to the muscles and consequently calculates an athlete’s best possible racing time.

Rapoport states: "Quantification is really important for a competitive athlete who wants to know, 'Can I run at a target pace of six minutes [a mile], or is that too fast, or do I have to go six minutes and 10 seconds per mile? That difference can make the difference between hitting the wall and actually meeting your goal."

Details on the study are published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.