Sprinter vs. Distance Runner


Do you know that running is one of many forms of exercises? Most of the time people use it to accomplish athletic feats that are remarkable. It is also used for getting rid of excessive weight. A lot of people sign up for running just to see how far or how fast they can go. Most of the time athletes take part in sprinting or long distance competition. There are fundamental differences between long distance running and sprinting. Showing you the difference is why what we are going to do in this article.


The meaning

A sprinter is someone who runs races that cover distances that are relatively short. The distance it covers is basically between 100 meters to 400 meters.A distance runner is someone that runs races that cover long distances. This can be from 5,000 meters to marathons.

Training program

A training of a sprinter is different from that of a long distance runner. Even though they both have to physically prepare their body for the task ahead they have different training programs. The basic focus of sprinters is on anaerobic exercise or strength training. This can give a rapid burst in strength and speed. The common training activities for sprinters are interval training that is intensive.

For long distance runners, the training program consists of exercises that are light. The exercises are prolonged to improve endurance.They focus on developing muscle endurance, cardiores piratory fitness, and stamina.

*Learn more about 6 Weeks 10K Training Plan

Muscle function

We all know that the human body has muscles. Do you know these muscles are made of fibers? There are two groups of muscle fibers. They are the slow-twitch muscle fibers and fast-twitch muscle fibers.The slow-twitch muscle fibers can expand and contract for a long time. This type of muscle is possessed by long distance runners. They have it at a high level and the muscle is made of endurance.

For sprinters, the fast-twitch muscle fibers work best. They possess the muscle fibers at higher levels. This type of muscle fiber provides a short boost of power. For short sprints, it determines the ability to powerfully explode.You cannot convert slow-twitch muscles to fast-twitch muscle or vice versa. Yet, you can alter them to have some characteristics of each other.

Body structure

Sprinters and distance runners also differ in body type. Talk of height, weight, and body structure, there is a huge difference. Distance runners have tall height. Their arms are long and help in pumping for extra power. Their legs are long and this gives the opportunity for a bigger stride.

The legs also allow time to get to the finish line in less time. With fewer steps, they would be able to cover much ground. For sprinters, their legs and arms are typically shorter. The legs help in building speed faster.Since long distance running requires endurance and strength, runners carry less weight.

For distance runners carrying too much weight might slow speed and also be a burden. On the other hand, sprinters are heavier. They carry more weight and build enough and huge muscles. Their heavy weight allows them to run with more power and also cut through the wind.In short, long distance runners are tall with little muscles. Sprinters are short with huge muscles.

The running technique

No doubt the technique they both use in running is different. Throughout the race, distance runners take steady steps that are short. In one minute, their stride is 180 steps. This is more than the number of steps an average jogger takes per minute. With this, their feet tend to spend less time on the ground while they develop their balance.For sprinters, their technique requires that they adapt to stride length, knee extension, and natural hip angle of the body. Compared to distance runners, this can involve longer strides and high knee action.

*Read more about running techniques


Injury risks

Both distance runners and sprinters are prone to any form of leg injury. Do you know each of the runners is more susceptible to some injury than the other? In sprinting the hamstring muscles are forced to expand and contract for a short time. During this time the energy of the muscles is drained. This might lead to acute hamstring injuries.The case is different for long distance runners such as marathoners. To run longer distances they overwork their bones and muscles. This can result in injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, and muscle cramps. Also, dehydration and sunburn could be experienced.


Even though all athletes need a good diet to remain healthy, the quantity requires varies. For sprinters, it is advisable that they consume more protein. It helps in maintaining and sustaining their lean muscle mass. A sprinter should eat up 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram. The protein sources should come from an egg, poultry, lean meat, legumes, beans, and dairy.

For distance runners, the basic focus should be on carbohydrates. It helps to improve the muscle glycogen. It also serves as fuel that helps to sustain through a long period of training and running. The carbohydrate should be from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Long distance runners just need protein of about 50% and 15% of it should come from good sources. Also, 10% to 15% fat is needed in the body.

Read more about How Many Calories Do You Burn Running A Marathon?

The rate of heart beats

For sprinters, the heart rate can reach the maximum of 80% to 90%. It can keep up for a short time. The heart rate is around 60% to 70% for a distance runner.Additionally, there are 3 metabolic pathways in the human body. Sprinters use phosphagen system with the glycolytic system. The long distance runners use the oxidative system.


With the information above, we have been able to shed more light on the differences. The differences in distance runners and sprinters are both fundamental and physical. If you are willing to be an athlete, you can pick your battle. Also, if you have any comment about the article, don’t hesitate to use the comment box.

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