A trade-off is inevitable between the enormous anaerobic capacity needed to power the last few laps of a track race, which Farah had when running for Olympic gold medals, and the aerobic endurance needed to maintain a steady, breakneck pace during a marathon, he said. Andrew Jones, an exercise physiologist at the University of Exeter in England, who has studied the performances of Farah and Kipchoge.
Bottom line, said Alex Hutchinson, a columnist for Outside Magazine and author of “Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance,” Farah’s problem “isn’t that he’s not good at longer distances; it’s that he’s too good at shorter distances.
Compared to Farah, Kipchoge has superior “critical speed,” or the maximum aerobic speed that can be sustained, Jones said, which would be a significant advantage at 26.2 miles. Kipchoge could also have more sustainable running economy, the amount of oxygen required to run at a given speed, Jones said, which would lessen his fatigue later in a marathon.
Farah’s hopping, jogging gait contrasts with the fluid, metronomic style of classic marathon races and “probably expends a little more energy,” said Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and editor of the magazine. Runner’s World.
There are also fewer opportunities for runners to experiment with their strategy and tactics in the marathon compared to their ability to do so while running on the track. While runners may run once a week at the peak of their track season, elite marathoners typically run only two marathons a year, and there are a finite number of main races, even at the fastest stages (although Kipchoge challenges that notion.) A lot of things can go wrong in two hours.
Experts who were interviewed wondered if Farah had difficulty fueling up during a marathon, which isn’t required over shorter distances. Or if he had the patience for a 26.2-mile grind. Or if he could muster the same motivation after such a brilliant run on the track.