Despite some advances, it remains largely unknown how the millions of variations in the human genome influence athletic performance (especially in endurance events), and no single genetic test can really predict sports talent. However, there is experimental evidence from animal research that selecting for even a simple characteristic such as running ability can produce comparatively large and rapid changes in performance. That such selection has not been specifically documented in humans is more evidence of the limits of physiology-archeology than of the unlikelihood of selection for physical abilities. Here, the authors argue that top Olympians are likely genetically gifted individuals who in addition have numerous contributors to the “complex trait” of being an athletic champion that may not necessarily depend on defined genetic variations.
Fabian Sanchis-Gomar, Helios Pareja-Galeano, Jose A. Rodriguez-Marroyo, Jos J. de Koning, Alejandro Lucia and Carl Foster
Alejandro Santos-Lozano, Ana M. Angulo, Pilar S. Collado, Fabian Sanchis-Gomar, Helios Pareja-Galeano, Carmen Fiuza-Luces, Alejandro Lucia and Nuria Garatachea
Most studies on aging and marathon have analyzed elite marathoners, yet the latter only represent a very small fraction of all marathon participants. In addition, analysis of variance or unpaired Student t tests are frequently used to compare mean performance times across age groups. In this report the authors propose an alternative methodology to determine the impact of aging on marathon performance in both nonelite and elite marathoners participating in the New York City Marathon. In all, 471,453 data points corresponding to 370,741 different runners over 13 race editions (1999–2011) were retrieved. Results showed that the effect of aging on marathon performance was overall comparable in both sexes, the effect of aging differed between the fastest and slowest runners in both sexes, and the magnitude of the sex differences was higher in the slowest runners than in the fastest ones. Current data suggest that the biological differences between sexes allow men to have better marathon performance across most of the human life span.